Persecution

JESUS SPEAKING

      “If the world hates you, you will know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I have spoken to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Jesus was persecuted relentlessly during His earthly ministry. He was slandered publicly and privately. He was shunned by many, and ridiculed, even by members of His own family. His message was so offensive that He was nearly stoned to death on several occasions. Eventually, despite His miraculous feats, and His immeasurable love, Jesus Christ was abandoned by His closest friends; He was bound and beaten; spit upon and crucified. Those who choose to follow Him can expect to experience some manner of persecution.
      Eleven of the twelve disciples were brutally martyred for their unwavering faith. They paid the ultimate price for fearlessly spreading the gospel throughout the known world. Although physical peril is a common type of persecution, it comes in many other forms. One day, many years ago, as I sat studying in the local coffee shop, I began talking with a Muslim friend concerning the tenants of the Christian faith. As I presented her with the gospel, a woman sitting next to us became visibly upset. Not knowing that we were already friends, she yelled “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to talk to you about that?” The woman continued to verbally harass me, making every effort to subvert the conversation. In the middle of the pestering, I looked at my friend and said, “This is the type of persecution that occurs when you become a believer.” Eventually the woman became so disruptive that we had to end our discussion.
      Persecution is an inevitable consequence of genuine faith. If you are not experiencing some form of persecution, then perhaps you are keeping your beliefs hidden away; choosing safety and security above obedience to the Lord. Still there are those who boldly spread the gospel message. These individuals can expect to be persecuted. Persecution, in any form, isn’t very pleasant; yet it is a reminder that we are earnestly following in the footsteps of our teacher, our master, and our friend.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, provide us with opportunities to preach the gospel to others. May we reach out to those who might become our brothers and sisters. Strengthen us when we encounter persecution; that we might stand firm in the faith. Give us courage to boldly speak the truth, that we would continue to emulate our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. 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 Holy Spirit

JESUS SPEAKING

    “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14: 25-26)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    The Lord informed His disciples that He would soon be taken away from them. In His absence, He promised to send them a replacement; a helper; a spiritual entity that would guide and direct them, and bring to their remembrance all of His teachings. After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven; upon reaching His eternal position, He sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of every believer (beginning on the day of Pentecost.) The faithful began to speak in foreign languages; they were given the power and authority to forgive sins, to cast out demons, to raise the dead, and to heal the sick. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was, and is, proof that Jesus Christ has reached His heavenly destination. Even today, the work of the Spirit reminds us that He is still seated at the right hand of God; a place of honor from which He continues to guide and direct His church.
    In the early 20th century a bold and daring explorer named Roald Amundsen set out to reach the remote poles of the earth. He succeeded, arriving at the South Pole in 1911, followed by the North Pole in 1926. As the story goes, during his northern expedition, he took along a homing pigeon (homing pigeons mate for life; and thus, when separated from their mates, they possess a unique ability to return to their nests from anywhere in the world. Before leaving for the North Pole, Amundsen, not wanting his wife to worry, promised to release the pigeon when he had reached his destination. His wife was elated when the bird eventually arrived back at its nest in Norway. The pigeon was a symbol; a message proclaiming that the explorer had arrived in a distant land, and was very much alive and well.
    The Holy Spirit is also a symbol; it is a message and a reminder that Jesus Christ is alive. Many have received the message; while others have not. Those who have opened their hearts to God’s messenger have acknowledged that Jesus is their Lord and master; the Living God who presently guides and directs His church through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you have never received His gift of salvation, go somewhere quiet and ask God to send His Holy Spirit into your heart. He will not withhold this wonderful gift from those who faithfully ask Him.
     “Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son, and that He is seated at Your right hand. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit; guide and direct us; teach us and remind us of Your ways. May we always remain faithful believers; may we never waiver; may we never grow weary; and may we never turn away from Your truth. Continue to use us to fulfill Your will in this place, until the end arrives and we see you again, face to face. 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!

Forgiven Much, Love Much

JESUS SPEAKING

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7: 36 – 50)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Jesus agrees to dine with a Pharisee in his home. Upon arriving, He is refused several customary gestures reserved for honored guests. He is not greeted with a kiss, His feet are not washed, and His head isn’t anointed with any fragrant oil. The religious leader, believing himself to be righteous, discovered little value in the gospel message. And yet a harlot woman who had lived her entire life in abject sin, experienced a new birth; she felt the magnitude of God’s forgiveness through Christ; and in an instant she was transformed. Her newfound faith compelled her to honor Jesus. She kissed his feet; she washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair; she also anointed him with perfume. Through this interaction we are introduced to a solid biblical truth; ‘those who are forgiven much, love much; but those who are forgiven little, love little.’

As the story goes, in 1896, Captain Alfred Bertrand was traveling through South Africa when he arrived in the region of the Barotsi people. He had heard stories of the native King Lewanika, whose greatest delight had been torturing his enemies in cruel and unusual ways before murdering them. He was a brutal, sadistic, and Godless man; which produced his nickname; “the human tiger.” Upon arriving in the region, Captain Bertrand met with a local missionary and Pastor named Monsieur Coillard. On sunday, as a matter of politeness, the French soldier attended church. When he came out of the service, he asked Pastor Coillard, “Who was that remarkable looking man sitting next to me, who listened so carefully?” “That was King Lewanika, ‘the human tiger,'” he replied. “Was it really?” he inquired again. “Yes,” responded Coillard. “Then if that is what Christ can do, I mean to be His,” muttered Captain Bertrand.

Like King Lewanika, those whose lives are steeped in sin, are often the most willing to hear the message of forgiveness and receive salvation. In turn, the prior degenerates, having experienced the depths of God’s mercy, are reborn and reformed. They become compelled to worship God and to follow His commandments and virtuous principles. As a result, genuine believers will display authentic affection for others; every act of kindness is a reminder to the lost that God is alive; and that He is calling them to repent and return to Him.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we experience Your complete forgiveness, and never forget how merciful You have been toward us. May we remain humble and seek to love all those we meet, as we preach the gospel of grace to those who need to be forgiven, reconciled, and reborn. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Lord, that we might choose what is good. 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 Depths of Forgiveness

JESUS SPEAKING

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in Heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11: 25) In Matthew 18: 21 – 25, we read, ‘Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'”

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Peter asks Jesus what the limits of forgiveness are; initially expressing his belief in the sufficiency of seven times per day. However, the Lord quickly corrects him. Jesus uses an exaggerated number of 70 times 7, to emphasize the inexhaustible nature of forgiveness, as it pertains to repentant souls. By implication, Christ also vilifies the harboring of any resentments. Resentment is defined as, any persisting anger or indignation experienced as the result of another individual’s harmful, unfair, or detrimental treatment. Resentment is a destructive, selfish emotion that causes harm to those who refuse to forgive others absolutely.

As the story goes, on a prominent boulevard in Chicago there once stood for many years a fence eighteen feet high; erected by a woman who imagined her neighbor was peering into her windows. While it effectively cut off the in-look, it shut the sunshine out of her own yard, ruined the lawn, and cast a shadow upon the house. In a similar fashion, spite and resentment cast the heaviest shadows over the hearts that harbor them; shutting out the sunshine of life and the fullness of God’s peace.

Harboring hatred and resentment toward others separates us from God and produces destruction in our hearts and minds. If we have received God’s forgiveness, then entertaining spite and unforgiveness against others is unjust, hypocritical, and quite dangerous. Grace has been given, and grace, through us, must continue. As a practical matter, praying daily for those who have harmed us is extremely beneficial. By means of this mechanism, we are able to see our enemies as fallen individuals, in desperate need of a savior. We can then love them with God’s heart. There is nothing so freeing to the soul than the death of resentment.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before you as broken people; individuals who, aside from your grace, would be imprisoned in sin. If we are currently harboring any resentment toward others, make it known to us; and give us the strength, the courage, and the will to let go of our anger. Through forgiveness, may we continue to reach our enemies with the gospel message and serve our fellows without prideful intent and selfish ambition. 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 Golden Rule

JESUS SPEAKING

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

(Matthew 7: 12)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

In this scripture Jesus identifies a simple litmus test that can decipher what is right and wrong in almost every situation. He basically condenses Christianity into a single sentence, which when followed, accomplishes the will of God and leaves little room for selfish behaviors. Simply put, we must treat others the same way that we would like to be treated. If we encounter someone who is hungry then we must feed them; if they are thirsty then we give them something to drink; if they need to hear the gospel, we must speak the truth in love. When empathy reigns in our hearts, there is little room for ungodliness.

As the story goes, before the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government had written many laws relating to water pollution. One of these regulations required that every factory had to discharge their water up-stream from their own intake pipes. In this manner, a factory would get back exactly what it put out; subsequently forcing them to remove pollutants if they wished to use clean water. In essence, their comfortable existence was conditioned upon, and equivalent to, the way they treated others.

According to Jesus, doing what is right is far simpler than attempting to follow every commandment individually. As Christians we are obligated to treat others with the same measure of affection and attention we might seek from them. Using the Golden rule permits us to carry out the will of God without resorting to selfishness, deceit, or hypocrisy. This way of living isn’t always easy; because telling people the truth is difficult and uncomfortable. But no matter the consequence, we must continue to speak the Gospel and to do what is right.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we be empathetic and sincere; shunning hypocrisy and deceitful living. Give us the wisdom necessary to practice the golden rule; and to treat others exactly how we would like to be treated. We desire for our lives to conform to your righteous standard; in everything we do, may we emulate You. 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!

God’s Perfect Plan

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 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 eyes of the blind man with 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

According to the prevailing sentiment of the first century, the disciples believed that all deformity and dysfunction were the result of an individual’s own sinful behaviors. Thus they sought to discover who’s sin had caused the man’s condition. Jesus insisted that his blindness wasn’t the consequence of any sin; but instead, had arisen as an opportunity for God to accomplish a miraculous feat of divine healing. His eyes were made whole again so that others might observe God’s power and embrace a faithful existence. In this life, the things that initially appear the most challenging or tragic, are frequently used by God to bring Him the greatest glory.

In the Old Testament, we are introduced to a man named Joseph (one of Jacob’s twelve sons.) He was highly favored above his siblings. This favoritism provoked his brothers to jealousy and hatred. One day they bound Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. They then lied to their father, claiming he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph served as a slave in Egypt for many years; enduring numerous trials and tribulations. After being falsely accused of a crime, he is sentenced to prison; where he remains a faithful servant. By means of divine providence, he impresses Pharaoh with his ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh then promotes Joseph to the highest position of authority in Egypt. When a terrible famine strikes the land, Jacob and his family begin to suffer. He sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain, where they soon encounter Joseph; the brother they had sold into bondage many years earlier. Their evil deed is eventually revealed to Jacob, who is reunited with his lost son. Due to the devastating famine, Joseph has his entire family relocated to Egypt; thus ensuring their survival. He forgives his brothers for their mistreatment saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”

Like Joseph, we may encounter moments of tragedy and tribulation; and yet, unlike God, we cannot see the end from the beginning. Our adversities and struggles often arise, not as a punishment, but rather, as an opportunity to observe some divine achievement. As we overcome our trials, and God’s perfect will is accomplished, our victories become a testimony concerning the power, the honor, and the glory of our Heavenly Father; to whom all authority remains forever.

“Lord Heavenly Father, apart from You we can do nothing; but with You, we can accomplish wonderful things. As others witness Your miracles being accomplished in our lives, may they be healed, forgiven, transformed and reborn; according to the measure of Your faithfulness. You truly are an awesome and amazing God. 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!

Excess Wealth

JESUS SPEAKING

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and mother.'” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God?” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10: 17 – 25)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

A wealthy young man asked Jesus how he might receive eternal life. The Lord insisted he sell all of his possessions; only then could he embark on his Christian journey. Sadly, the idolatrous man walked away; preferring to continue worshiping his wealth rather than God. Jesus responded by issuing an additional proclamation stating that it is nearly impossible for those who are wealthy (and trust in their riches) to enter the Kingdom of God. Excessive wealth is therefore a frequent hindrance to faithfulness and a detriment to those who seek after it.

As the story goes, one day Martin Luther found himself penniless, yet he was asked to contribute to an important Christian work. He remembered that he owned a beautiful medal of Joachim, Elector of Brandengurg, which was one of his most prized possessions. He promptly approached the drawer, opened it, and said: “What are you doing there, Joachim? Do you not see how idle you are? Come out and make yourself useful.” Then he took the medal and gave it up for the work of the Lord.

Excessive wealth and abundant resources can often become a stumbling block for those who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ. Many place their trust in bank accounts, precious assets, or stock portfolios. Christians however are called to place their faith and trust in God alone. Wealth can be beneficial, but only when it is used to further the gospel message, to express God’s generosity, or to accomplish something eternally beneficial.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we use our excess possessions to serve you; to spread the gospel and to proclaim Your plan of salvation. May we be grateful, may we be generous, and may we be faithful. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cleanse our hearts and minds. You truly are an awesome and amazing God. 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!

God’s Reflection

JESUS SPEAKING

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Jesus commands His followers to imitate God’s righteous behavior with perfection. We read in Ephesians Chapter 5, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself up, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” If we lay down our selfish ambitions, the divine attributes of God will manifest in our actions. Striving for perfect adherence to God’s will is admirable and necessary. If we remain diligent, others will look at our lives and know God’s heart; they will experience His grace, His mercy, and His love.

Modern photography as we know it, began less than 200 years ago. Prior to that, images could only be created using a mixture of paint or ink deposited on canvas, paper, or wood. Those who desired an image of themselves, or their families, had to pay an artist to paint a portrait. These depictions were often time consuming; requiring individuals to stand still for hours, days, or even weeks while the artist recreated an exact image of them on a canvas. The skill of each artist varied quite significantly. The better the artist, the more exact and detailed the painting.

Similarly, like these portraits, God desires that our lives conform to His image. We must strive to become a perfect reflection of Him in this place. If we behave as genuine Christians, others will see God working in us and through us. They will know the will of God, and discover His nature and Spirit. Those who are willing will be transformed by His love, affection, and righteousness.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire to obey Your will; to be transformed into Your image and likeness. May we become portraits of who You are in this world; a visible reflection for all those who are seeking the truth. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we may always do what is pleasing to You. 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!

Transgenders

JESUS SPEAKING

“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19: 4 – 6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Quoting an old testament scripture, Jesus reiterates and affirms an unwavering truth concerning the fundamental nature of human kind. In the beginning, God ‘made them male and female.’ Therefore every person alive today is either a male or female; their sex is determined at birth and any deviation from this certainty is an egregious sin requiring prompt repentance. Those attempting to change their gender are spiritually sick. We read in Deuteronomy 22: 5, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” The modern day transgender movement is a demonic endeavor that requires Christians to stand up in opposition.

Some time ago i received a call from a pollster gathering information about an upcoming election. After identifying as a conservative, I was asked if I would vote for Caitlyn Jenner for Governor. Without hesitation I corrected the caller, saying ‘Well first of all, Caitlyn Jenner is not a real person. His name is Bruce Jenner and he is pretending to be a woman.’ I informed the caller that I was a Christian, and that women cannot become men and men cannot become women. I rejected his language again and again; reminding him that Bruce Jenner’s attempts to transform himself were unGodly and delusional.

As of late, the world we live in has drastically changed. The huddling masses have accepted and even begun to celebrate the sinful practices of ‘transgenderism,’ homosexuality, and fornication (sexual activity outside the boundaries of marriage.) As Christians we are duty bound to represent God; and to boldly proclaim the gospel without apology. When confronted by worldviews that don’t adhere to God’s will, we must oppose them. We will undoubtedly offend people and we will be persecuted for speaking the truth. However, those who have stood in opposition to evil will be rewarded beyond anything they could possibly ask or imagine.

“Lord Heavenly Father, give us the strength to oppose the demonic forces of this fallen world. May we reach out to those who are walking in darkness, that they too might see Your wonderful light. May we be joyful and never lose heart as we endure the persecution that accompanies the manifestation of Your will. 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!

Second Chances

JESUS SPEAKING

      When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  A third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” […] and when he had said this he said, “Follow me.” (John 21: verse 15 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      On the night that Jesus was arrested, His disciple abandoned him.  As the armed soldiers escorted Jesus to the high priest for questioning, Peter followed at a distance.  When they arrived at their destination, Peter sat down and watched as an angry crowd condemned his master.  They hurled insults at him and spit on him; they blindfolded Jesus and repeatedly struck him in the face.  Upon observing the brutality of the mob, Peter’s heart began to fail; his faith soon gave way to fear.  Three times he was asked by those around him if he was a follower of Jesus Christ; and three times he denied his affiliation.  He eventually ran off, disgraced and ashamed.  After rising from the dead, Jesus appeared to His disciples. They engaged in fellowship and shared a meal together.  Eventually Jesus took Peter aside; refusing to condemn him for his denials.  Instead, He absolved him of his sins and gave him a second chance.  Peter was now being called to serve and care for those who were repenting and receiving salvation.

      In the late 1800’s there lived an ambitious inventor named Thomas Edison.  He is credited with inventing the battery, the phonograph, the telegraph, the movie projector, and many other well-known devices.  One of his greatest inventions was the first industrial light bulb (an item we still use today.)  As the story goes, it took Mr. Edison and an entire team of men, 24 hours to produce the first working prototype.  After many long hours, Edison gave the bulb to a young boy to carry up the stairs to the testing area.  With the fragile device in hand, the nervous assistant cautiously made his ascent; every step was carefully planned and executed. Sadly, despite the child’s best efforts, he somehow shattered the bulb.  In turn, the disappointed team began manufacturing another prototype.  Twenty-four hours later, the new bulb appeared.  Although the young assistant had failed the first time, Edison wisely understood that the boy deserved a second chance.  The youngster didn’t disappoint either; he delivered the bulb to it’s destination intact.

      The world is teaming with people who have failed, in more ways than one; mistakes are a part of life.  However, many human beings can be unforgiving and cruel; but God is merciful.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to forgive others who are truly repentant and deserve a second chance. In so doing, we too will escape the sins of our past. Forgiveness is the pathway to peace, and mercy is a road that leads to genuine fellowship with our eternal Father.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we have made many mistakes; but You have created in us a new heart.  You have given us a second chance.  May we show that same love toward others; may we forgive completely, and may Your mercy and grace be manifested through us, into the lives of all those we meet.  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!

Selflessness and Sacrifice

JESUS SPEAKING

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24 – 25)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The old rugged cross is an enduring symbol of selflessness and sacrifice. Those who strive to follow Jesus Christ must crucify themselves daily. Our temporal wants, fleshly desires, and the present pleasures of this passing life must be abandoned. We lay down our lives so that Christ might arise in our place. If we die to ourselves, others will see God and be drawn to Him. By accomplishing acts of great service, we can spread the gospel message far and wide. Only through death can we experience eternal life.

As the story goes, during the 1800’s, a missionary named James Calvert was led by God to spread the gospel message to the cannibal infested islands of Figi. During his journey, the captain of the ship on which he traveled sought to dissuade him, saying, “You will risk your life and all those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert’s response was simple and magnificent. “We died before we came here!” James and his companions had sacrificed their desires for self-preservation the moment they chose to follow Christ.

Like James Calvert, anyone who chooses to follow the Messiah must lay down their lives in service to God. We must abandon our selfish wants and desires. When compared with the promised rewards of eternal life, the passing pleasures of our current existence are insignificant. If we cannot embrace selflessness and sacrifice, we can’t hope to properly represent Jesus Christ.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to follow Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we take up our crosses and sacrifice our hunger for the passing pleasures of this world. Only You can give us the strength to lay down our flesh and walk according to the Spirit. 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!

Overcoming the Fear of Evangelism

JESUS SPEAKING

“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10: 17 – 20)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The textbook definition of evangelism is, ‘the spreading of the Christian gospel through public preaching, individual witnessing, and personal testimony.’ Jesus addresses the root cause of why many professing Christians refuse to evangelize. In verse 19 he says, “do not worry about how or what you should speak.” Thus the fear (worry) of appearing foolish and being rejected are the primary obstacles we must overcome if we are to faithfully carry the gospel message. To further alleviate any lingering anxiety, Jesus affirms that the words we share will not originate from us, but will instead be spoken through us by the Holy Spirit. If our evangelistic efforts are rejected, we needn’t feel shame or remorse; for they have not forsaken us, but God Himself; the creator of all things.

Currently, the United states has approximately 169 Ambassadors serving around the world. An ambassador is an important official who lives in a foreign country and represents American interests. A reliable and trustworthy ambassador assumes the duty of accomplishing a singular task; he must accurately convey the thoughts and desires of his nation to the country in which he is stationed. His private and personal opinions are abandoned; he speaks boldly without fear or regret. He has become the carrier of a message; a delivery man so to speak.

As Christians, we are ambassadors from heaven; carrying a message from our King to all those who might hear the gospel and be saved. We must abandon our selfish pride and the fear of rejection and evangelize whenever or wherever God may lead. We lay down our concerns, our worries, and our lives, so that we might represent the risen Lord in this place.

“Lord Heavenly Father, empower us with boldness, that we might be unashamed and unafraid. As we evangelize, may Your Holy Spirit speak through us. Compel us to reach out to those who are lost. Grant us numerous divine appointments, that might lead to the repentance and salvation of many souls. We love You Father, We praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.” God bless all of you!

Being Chosen By God

JESUS SPEAKS

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” […] “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” […] “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6: 37), (John 6: 40), (John 6: 44 – 45)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The Lord almighty has predestined the means by which mankind can attain divine reconciliation. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God is the doorway through which every faithful believer must pass. We understand that, without exception, those who have been chosen by our Creator will be drawn to the foot of the cross. Only through the Messiah can we be forgiven, made perfect, and become entirely prepared to fellowship with our Eternal Father. Jesus alone is the door to heaven and the pathway to God.

Years before the world was introduced to GPS navigation, traveling was tedious and imperfect. Stopping multiple times to pester strangers for directions was commonplace. Gas station attendants were quite commonly inundated with questions. With every new fragment of information, the voyager could journey closer and closer to their desired location. As they journeyed, every folded map, every dingy street sign, and every pointed finger would coalesce into a pathway, leading the traveler to their final destination.

Today, those who have been chosen by God have also embarked on a splendid journey. Seeking reconciliation with the Father, they are drawn toward His Son. Jesus Christ is the only road that connects God and man. If the Lord has chosen us to be disciples, then we have but one task in this life; to point others toward the Messiah; toward Jesus; toward a future with God. For those who are called according to His purpose, the Father’s eternal promises will never fail.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we thank you for choosing us, and we desire to serve You with our whole hearts. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, and direct our daily tasks, that we might point others toward Your Son, and in turn, toward the goodness of Your salvation and grace. 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!

Fellowship is Essential

JESUS SPEAKING

     “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mathew 18: 19-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     The word ‘Amen,’ so commonly spoken at the end of most prayers, essentially means ‘I agree.’ Like so many Christian practices, prayer is meant to be exercised in community, as well as in solitude. In order to have a complete relationship with God, we must share Him with others. When two or more gather together to celebrate Christ, His Spirit is made manifest in their hearts; the feeble become strong and the empty are made full. An isolated Christian will eventually grow weak and become more vulnerable to attack.
     Some time ago, I regularly answered the prayer lines at my local church. After gaining some experience, I was able to make some profound observations. Those who were not involved in a church fellowship, or a small group bible study, suffered great difficulties. Many isolators were addicted to drugs or struggling with some other terrible sin; most of these detached souls were stuck in a continual state of crisis. On the contrary, those who expressed a spirit of joy were actively involved in service work; they usually attended a small group fellowship also; and they maintained close friendships with other followers.
     As believers we need to be involved in some form of Christian fellowship. Our experience with Christ must be exercised in community, rather than complete isolation. If you are not actively involved in a fellowship with other believers, find a church near you and get plugged into the body of Christ. Endeavor to make friends with other followers and pray with them regularly; become a part of God’s family and be renewed by the Holy Spirit. Without fellowship, we cannot know the fullness of God’s power in our lives.
     “Lord heavenly Father, we come before You as members of Your body and ask for more of Your Holy Spirit. We desire to continue in fellowship with our eternal brothers and sisters. May we draw near to one another as we all draw near to You. If we have isolated ourselves, give us opportunities to fellowship with others, that we might grow stronger. 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!

Loving Other Christians

JESUS SPEAKING

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Luke 13: 34-35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Despite being called to love everyone, a unique bond exists within the Christian community. According to Jesus, the manifestation of supernatural affection that occurs between believers is an enduring symbol of authentic Christianity. If we fail to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we have failed to accomplish the will of God, while also ignoring the desires of our Savior. May our hearts remain steadfast and never falter, as we seek to love every member of the ‘Body of Christ.’

Richard Wurmbrand was an Evangelical preacher who spoke up for Christianity during the Russian occupation of Romania. In 1948, he was thrown into prison by the communist regime, tortured, and harassed. Despite the atrocious conditions in which he was kept, he said that he and the other believers continued tithing. “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soup every day, we decided we would faithfully ‘tithe’ even that. Every tenth week we took a slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brothers as our ‘tithe’ to the ‘Master.’

Even in the depths of despair, Richard had found a way to show affection for his fellow believers. His duty then is our duty now. We are called to be a part of a Christian community. And within the fellowship of believers we can accomplish Christ’s commandment to love our brothers and sisters. Our unique affection for one another is a symbol of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within our hearts. May we be the light that draws others to Christ.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray for a deeper relationship with You. May we become part of a Christian community. Let Your Holy Spirit flow through our hearts, creating the desire to show affection for our fellow believers. May we care for our brothers and sisters, showering them with love in the light of Your majesty and grace. 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 name. Amen.” God bless all of you!

Compassion

JESUS SPEAKING

    And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”  Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled.  And He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”  And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11: 28-37)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    Upon arriving, Jesus observed Mary and Martha weeping over the loss of their brother.  He was immediately filled with compassion and empathy; His heart was so grieved that He began weeping with them.  And yet not one of Christ’s tears was shed for Lazarus (whom He would soon raise from the dead.) Instead, Jesus cried because He empathized with those who were mourning.  Concerning empathy and compassion, God has no equal; He’s filled with it.  Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another person who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.”

    One day, many years ago, I happened by a man named Eric.  He was seated outside of a coffee shop, slouching down in a chair; he looked more dead than alive.  His skin was pale and clammy and he was sweating profusely. His clothes were also old and tattered.  Upon witnessing his pain, my heart was moved with compassion.  I promptly sat down and began speaking with him.  He informed me that he was withdrawing from heroine and was very sick.  I took him out to eat and provided him with some clean clothes; I ministered to him as best I could.  As his condition worsened, I drove him to the hospital and sat with him in the emergency room for hours; I even accompanied him in to see the doctor.  After being treated he was released.  Before dropping Eric off, I paid for his prescription and made sure he had enough food for the evening.  Nearly a year later, Eric showed up at the coffee shop to say hello.  He told me that after our interaction, he had nearly died of a heart infection and was hospitalized for an extended period of time.  He thanked me for my efforts, and said that without my assistance, he might not be alive.  He was grateful that (‘even when his friends had abandoned him’) someone had cared enough to help.  Despite his personal gratitude, I reminded Eric that it was God who deserved the credit; for it was God who had filled my heart with compassion; and in turn, it was the Lord who had moved me to act.

     Because Jesus Christ is filled with compassion, His followers are as well.  In turn, He moves human beings to accomplish great feats of kindness and mercy.  The closer we are to God, the more compassion we will feel for those who are hurting.  When someone is struggling, God feels their pain and inspires others to comfort them.  Wherever mercy and love abound, the Spirit of God is at work.  However, where there is indifference and a lack of compassion, there is an absence of Godliness.  There are so many broken people in this world who need to be loved.  May God’s compassion lead us to act; may we feel what God feels; may we see with His eyes; may we be filled with the mercy required to relieve the suffering of others.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know You and to be filled with Your compassionate Spirit.  Inspire us, that our hearts may be sensitive to those who are hurting.  Give us the strength to be kind when others are in need. May we love our families, our friends, and even those who are complete strangers.  Use us to express Your merciful benevolence.  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!

Being a Peacemaker

JESUS SPEAKING

  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God!” (Matthew 5: 9)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    The world is full of conflict. Yet in the midst of the hostility, God’s children are called to promote peace. The Lord Himself is a peacemaker; He detests unjustified violence and senseless aggression. Those who share His heart also share His mission; to bring harmony where there is hatred and tranquility where there is contempt. Those who choose to make peace will inherit the eternal blessings offered to the ‘Sons and daughters of God.’ (Note: Despite our efforts to foster peace, we must always speak the gospel truth; which will inevitably create discord.)
    As the story goes, in the 4th century A.D., a monk named Telemachus felt God calling him to go to Rome. He packed up his meager possessions and set out for the great city. Upon arriving, the streets were bustling with excitement. When he asked why everyone was so energized, he was informed that the gladiators would soon be fighting to the death in the coliseum. Horrified that men would be killing one another for sport, he headed for the stadium. After entering the complex, he pushed through the crowds and hopped a fence; making his way to the center of the arena. As he stood between the two gladiators, he shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop!” The crowd began yelling, “Run him through, Run him through!” A gladiator abruptly approached; striking the monk in the stomach with the back of his sword. Although Telemachus fell to the ground, he soon recovered. Once again, he placed himself between the two armed men and shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.” The other gladiator suddenly approached him and plunged his sword through the monk’s belly. Telemachus plummeted to the ground and began bleeding out. Before dying, he was able to utter one last statement; “In the name of Christ, stop.” A hush came over the crowd. A single spectator rose up from his seat and left; followed by another; and another. Within minutes everyone had left the coliseum. According to the story, that day marked the end of the Roman gladiators fighting to the death for sport.
  Like Telemachus, no matter the consequence, the people of God are called to be peacemakers. When others fall silent, we must speak up. Where there is discord, we ought to bring unity; where there is conflict, we must promote peace. In so doing we will be called ‘The children of God;’ and we will know the eternal blessings reserved for those who remain faithfully obedient.
    “Lord Heavenly Father, we long for obedience; may we share in the desires of Your heart. May we love others as You have loved others. Use us to promote peace and to end conflict. Give us the courage and strength to speak up when the masses remain silent; may we be Your sons and daughters; and may we experience the blessings of genuine obedience. 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!

Loving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

   Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness. The prostitutes and tax-collectors, devoid of any delusions of purity, were wholly capable of conducting an honest self-appraisal.  The religious leaders however, believing themselves to be righteous, refused to accept the message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward the restoration of divine fellowship includes a genuine recognition of sin. Still today, those who need the greatest measure of healing, are often rejected by the self-righteous. Although most have forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

  Many living within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were no retirement homes, assisted living facilities, or modern hospitals.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who fell ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; and left to die in the streets. Still, as Christianity spread, so did mercy, compassion, and love. During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who were sick. They became known as “the Parabalani” (“the reckless ones”); because in caring for the infirmed, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they undoubtedly preached the gospel; drawing many to the foot of the cross.

    In similar fashion, we are called to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing recipients of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation. May we never abandon the lost; nor shun the wretched; for Jesus Christ himself loves every outcast.

   “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we be instruments of Your mercy; delivering Your message of salvation to the lost.  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.

Producing Fruit

JESUS SPEAKING

    “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12: 23 – 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Utilizing an agricultural metaphor, Jesus references His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection. A single grain of wheat, when planted, can produce hundreds, thousands, and even millions of additional seeds. Similarly, the Lords’ suffering and agony upon the cross, and ensuing resurrection, has produced much fruit. His selfless sacrifice has inspired endless conversions; enabling millions to receive the mercy and grace of God.
     In the 1800’s there resided a little girl from Philadelphia name Hattie Wiatt. She lived in close proximity to a popular, and very crowded Grace Baptist Church. One day she approached the Church and asked to attend their Sunday school. Sadly, she was told that there was no more room. Less than two years later, Hattie fell ill and passed away. A pocket book containing 57 pennies was found underneath her pillow; it was wrapped in a piece of scrap paper; written on the paper was a note that read, “To help build the little temple bigger, so that more children can go to Sunday school.” She had saved her pennies for 2 years intending to give them as a donation to the church. The pastor told his congregation of Hattie’s selflessness. Immediately donations began pouring in, until they had collected nearly $250,000 dollars. Soon the church was seating 3,300 people; the parishioners also chose to build a hospital as well as a university accommodating some 1,400 students (today, attendance at Temple University has grown to nearly 28,000.) Hattie’s sacrifice, although small, has gone on to produce much fruit.
     Like Hattie, we are called to selflessly lay down our lives to “build the little temple bigger.” To sacrifice our own wants and desires so that others may come to know the love of God. When we serve our fellows, love our neighbors, and give to those in need, we bear much fruit. Those who strive to live selflessly will come to know peace; true peace; heavenly peace; eternal peace; “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”
     “Lord Heavenly Father, You are truly an amazing and awesome God. We desperately desire to be selfless; we yearn to lay down our lives so that others may come to know You. Help us to enjoy and embrace serving, giving, and loving. May we produce much fruit and bring many souls into Your everlasting 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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