Old and New

JESUS SPEAKING

              Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”  (Mathew 13: 52.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

              The bible consists of two parts; the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The old testament consisted of prophecies, inspired writings, and recorded historical information  dating from 4004 B.C. to approximately 440 B.C.; God then remained silent for 450 years until around 15-30 A.D. when John the Baptist began preaching in the wilderness about the near arrival of Jesus Christ.  Jesus arrived on the scene to complete God’s message and lay the foundations for the New Testament.  Jesus often quoted the Old Testament and added to it.  Any scribe that understood the message would combine both the Old Testament and Christ’s words in to one complete revelation from God.

              At the swap meet one day, I made an interesting observation.  They sell expensive antiques, which are highly valued because they are old.  But, many sell things that are completely new, and it is there newness that gives them their value.  Many retailers, like the householder Jesus was speaking about in this parable, get the most money for what they sell because they sell both new and old items.  God’s truth is not complete unless both the new and the Old Testament are combined as one.  The Holy bible cannot be divided, it cannot be substituted, and it cannot be added too; it is complete.

              The bible is filled with valuable treasures; gems of truth, nuggets of pure wisdom.  Jesus did not come to throw out the old, but to combine the old and the new in to a single masterpiece of communication between God and man.  The world is full of books that have been written by men and inspired by their own desires, but there is only one book that God himself has written.  The bible is a treasure chest that just needs to be opened; inside you will find every answer you have ever desired to know.  Open it, and know the fullness of the one true God.

              “Lord Heavenly Father, as we read Your Word, please give us a desire to dig deeply for insights and truths, and knowledge.  Guide us as we read, and speak to our hearts, and make your plan clearer in our minds and in our hearts.  We want to know the full, complete goodness of Your book, and in turn, Your compete goodness toward us.  We love You Lord, 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.

True Fellowship

JESUS SPEAKING

Then he said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’  But they all with one accord began to make excuses.  The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it.  I ask you to have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them.  I ask you to have me excused.’  Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  So that servant came and reported these things to his master.  Then the master of the house, being angry, sad to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’  And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’  Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper’” (Luke Chapter 14: 16 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

In this parable the man hosting the feast represents God.  The servant sent out to invite others to join in fellowship is Jesus Christ; and the great supper represents God’s eternal kingdom and the body of Christ as a whole.  Many who heard the Lord speak received the message, and with it salvation.  Most however rejected the gospel; inventing any number of excuses that would enable them to continue pursuing worldly pleasures.

Some time ago I got involved in a weekly fellowship through a local church.  The church was filled with people who appeared to be affluent and well educated.  After a short time, it became clear that many were not fully committed to the group, let alone to God Himself.  They enjoyed drinking and frequenting bars and clubs; many did not see fornication as an act of extreme evil either.  Not surprisingly, every week we would hear a list of excuses as to why these individuals would not be able to attend the bible study.  One girl often missed group because her favorite basketball team played on Thursday nights.  Unfortunately many do not take their relationship with God seriously (or they deny it entirely.)  Some will come up with any excuse to avoid fellowship, bible reading, and service work.

Today, the message is still being preached.  God continues to invite the masses to join Him in fellowship.  Those who heed the call integrate themselves into the body of Christ and begin to serve and love others.  Get involved at your local church and abandon the excuses and worldly pleasures that separate you from your fellows.  Attend a bible study, and get to know your true brothers and sisters.  Build friendships with other believers and read the bible.  If you obey the Lord’s commands and love unconditionally, then you will have entered into God’s kingdom, and you will live forever in His presence.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know You and to love You.  If we have not fully accepted your message then may we eagerly receive it today.  May we enter Your eternal kingdom and may we hunger for genuine fellowship with other believers.  Eliminate our excuses that we might serve our brothers and sisters in love.  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.

Serpents and Doves

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and as harmless (innocent) as doves” (Mathew 10: 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Those who accept the Holy Spirit and forsake evil are cleansed of all unrighteousness.  They are made pure; the innocence that was lost through sin is finally restored (the sons and daughters of God are reborn as doves; lacking evil intentions and immoral hearts.)  Unlike natural born children whose innocence is accompanied by ignorance, the ‘reborn’ child of God retains the knowledge of good and evil.  In the heart of every believer, innocence and wisdom exist in harmony.  The serpent is a creature that symbolizes wisdom.  In Genesis, God created the serpent to be the wisest of all the animals (Satan himself took the form of a serpent when he cleverly convinced Adam and Eve to disobey God.)  Characteristically, snakes are rarely caught off guard; they patiently wait for opportunities to strike; and they always keep their eyes on potential predators.  In a world filled with evil, God’s eternal offspring must apply comparable wisdom to avoid destruction. Like the serpent, believers must see hungry predators as they approach and turn to face them.  How can we be kind and loving toward these predators while at the same time making sure we don’t get eaten by them?  To be both a dove and a serpent can be a difficult task that demands discipline and divine guidance.

                A couple of years ago a man entered the coffee shop I frequent; it was late in the evening and there were very few customers; he was a peculiar man dressed in work out clothing.  He spoke in broken English and began to draw attention to himself by flirting with the workers behind the register.  When the workers were distracted, the man leaned over the counter and pulled some money out of the tip jar (quickly concealing it.)  Immediately I rose up and approached the counter.  The man turned around and was greeted with a stern look.  “Put it back,” I said.  “I’m so sorry” he replied; admitting to his devious actions, he returned the money and begged for forgiveness.  He claimed to be starving and in desperate need of money (possibly true; possibly a lie.)  I told him that what he really needed was Jesus.  I offered to help him so he didn’t have to steal.  I gave him money from my ATM and a bible from my car; he gratefully received them and went his way.  God had given me the wisdom to recognize evil in action.  Like a serpent I was able to expose and oppose a predator.  Like a dove I avoided harming the man; instead I loved and cared for him according to the will of God.

                God has called every follower to be wise; the child of God is able to recognize and oppose evil. The believer must also be harmless; showing love and kindness to those who oppose what is good.  The wicked despise God’s children; they seek to destroy, to pervert, and to devour the faithful; but the faithful seek to build up, to love, and to convert the wicked.  Walk wisely in the ways of God, and reach out to the lost; His Spirit will shine through you; you will bring hope to the hopeless; you will lead the blind to freedom; submit yourself to the call of God, and become a messenger of light in a very dark world.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom to avoid being harmed by evil while also opposing it.  May we be kind to those who walk in darkness; employ us to love the wicked.  May Your light shine brightly through us in this dark world.  Use us to direct others away from destruction and toward eternal life.  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.

Moving Mountains

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11: 20-24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Mountains are large, immovable obstacles; they are symbols of durability and permanence.  A million bulldozers and ten thousand sticks of dynamite would barely put a dent in even the smallest mountain range.  No human effort (no number of people, no quantity of resources) can make a mountain move.  Although no human can accomplish this task, Jesus said that through faith in God, a mountain can be reduced to a pebble that can be tossed into the sea.  A faith in God’s power is expressed in prayer.  The faithful, when faced with something they cannot accomplish, will turn and request that God do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

            Recently I was speaking with an elderly friend of mine.  For many years he and his wife had been pestering their kids to begin having children; they were anxious to be grandparents.  As the years went by and their faith in God grew, they gave up on their efforts and began praying and asking God for grandchildren; which he soon provided in abundance.  Their many years of dissatisfaction were products of their misplaced faith.  When they took the faith they had in themselves and placed it in God, the mountain that separated them from the desires of their heart had finally been removed.

            Today, there are many things in our lives that seem to be permanent fixtures; there are many obstacles that we, through our own efforts, have been powerless to overcome.  Too often we place faith in ourselves instead of God.  We need only turn to Him through prayer and seek His power.  Bring your struggles to the Lord; let Him accomplish what you cannot, and you will experience a very real miracle in your life.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask that You give us the faith to move mountains.  We desire to see You work and to accomplish the impossible.  We admit that apart from You, we are weak and have no hope; but with You Lord, nothing is impossible.  Fill our hearts with true faith; we thank You in advance for what You are going to do in our hearts and in our lives.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

A Finished Work

JESUS SPEAKING

                 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst.”  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to his mouth.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!”  And bowing his head, he gave up his spirit (John 19: 28-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had come to the end of his suffering on the cross.  He was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, humiliated, falsely accused, interrogated, publicly ridiculed and teased, spit on, and pierced by thorns; he was maimed by a whip about the neck, back and legs (the whip contained sharp shards which tore open his flesh;) a bag was placed over his head and he was struck in the face; Jesus carried a cross through mobs of people who hurled insults at him.  Spikes were driven through his hands and feet.  Despite the long list of pains he endured, thirst was one of the greatest agonies of the cross.  The condemned were denied water; Jesus had lost huge amounts of blood and was exposed to the heat of the day; his body desperately sought water to repair itself.  Near death, he said, “I thirst.”  The soldiers responded to his thirst by raising a vinegar soaked sponge to his lips (vinegar is an extremely bitter tasting liquid—even the Romans mercy seemed cruel.)  In his last moments, Jesus tasted the bitterness of man’s sin.  He then said, “it is finished,” and he died.  In a single day he had finished his greatest work; the salvation of mankind.  He took the penalty of man’s sin upon himself.  He suffered God’s wrath, so that those who would believe in him could avoid destruction. 

                The following is a fictitious story which illustrates the work of Jesus on the cross:  A girl and her mother lived next to a snake farm in India.  From the time of her youth, the girl was told not to wander near the snake pits.  One evening the girl began to argue with her mother; frustrated and filled with anger, she struck her mother; in shock the girl ran from her home; because it was evening she didn’t realize she was running toward the snake farm.  Suddenly she plummeted into one of the pits.  Seeing a single cobra staring her in the face, she screamed.  Hearing the scream, her mother came running and looked down into the pit and saw her daughter’s distress.  The woman jumped into the pit, and lunged toward the cobra to save her daughter.  The mother was bitten.  The young girl reached forward to pull her mother away from danger, and the cobra also bit her.  The owners of the snake farm heard the commotion and came running.  They pulled the women from the pit and rushed them to the hospital.  The mother went in to cardiac arrest, but the young girl showed no symptoms.  After a half an hour, the girl’s mother was pronounced dead.  The girl began to sob uncontrollably.  The Doctor approached her with a somber look on his face.  The girl asked him, “How could this have happened?  I’m completely fine; we were bitten by the same snake; why is it I am healthy and my mother is dead?”  The Doctor compassionately replied, “Well, your mother was bitten first; and the snake used all of its venom on her.  When it bit you, it had nothing left to inject.  Your mother saved your life.”

                Similarly, Jesus Christ has placed himself between God’s wrath and those who deserve to experience it.  He has taken the full penalty for sin upon himself; he has paid the price; he has suffered death so others may live.  As Jesus endured suffering he thought of you, and he thought of me.  He thought of us.  Have you accepted his sacrifice?  Have you allowed him to take your place?  Give Jesus Christ the opportunity to heal your spirit and to wash your sins away.  If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, you can do that today.  Contact me and we can talk about how you can partake in Christ’s offering and know the true peace of God within your heart.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and thank Your Son for his suffering.  We thank You for allowing him to take our place on the cross.  Thank You Jesus, for enduring God’s wrath so we can escape His punishment and be forgiven for our sins.  Father, be our God; be our salvation; be the center of our lives; fill us up with Your Spirit, and help us to sacrifice our lives for others (as You have done for us.)  We love You, 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.

Giving God the Glory

JESUS SPEAKING

                ‘Now around the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.  And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this man know letters, having never studied?”  Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not my own, but His who sent me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority.  He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7: 14-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The educated men who heard Jesus were astonished at his perfect knowledge of scripture.  Unlike them, he did not attend a notable Hebrew school; nor did he sit at the feet of some prominent rabbi; his knowledge and wisdom came from God (not man.)  For their extensive learning, the Jewish scholars demanded admiration and praise; Jesus however, sought to honor God.  To seek glory is to embrace unrighteousness; to glorify God and his only Son is to live rightly. 

     One man, who thoroughly understood this, was John the Baptist; when Jesus began baptizing people in the Jordan river, John’s followers became concerned; they said, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, he is baptizing, and all are coming to him.”  John replied, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven […] he must increase, and I must decrease.”  John was devoid of selfish pride; he humbled himself and sought only to glorify the Son of God (the savior of the world.)

                Although Jesus Christ reigns in heaven, his deeds continue on earth.  He performs his miracles through his disciples.  Those who desire glory will take credit for God’s works.  Trustworthy servants however, render to God the praise and honor He deserves.  To glorify God we must humble ourselves.  He must increase, and we must decrease.  Are you willing to forgo admiration so that God may receive what is His?  Will you lift his words up above your own?  Are you able to live in the name of Christ; to give in the name of Christ; and to love in the name of Christ?  May you decrease, and may He increase; may you die so that He may live; give God the glory, and He will provide you with immeasurable joy and everlasting peace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may You increase as we decrease.  May we let go of our selfish need to be praised; that You may receive the credit for the good works that You are accomplishing in us, and through us.  May we be vessels of Your love and mercy.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Lord that we might be pleasing to You at all times.  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 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 the majority of 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, and were 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.

                As a child and adolescent, my mother brought me to church quite regularly; however, despite many hours spent kneeling, standing, sitting and praying, I never heard anyone truly preach the gospel (at least not the whole gospel.)  I knew about Christ’s forgiveness and love; I was aware that he died for the sins of the world.  I understood the work of the cross, and the free gift of salvation.  I had learned about what God had done for me, and so I had comprehended the first half of the gospel message.  When I was in my twenties a friend took me to a church service; it was there that I finally heard the remaining half the message.  God expected something from me; I was required to repent and obey.  I had to turn away from fornication, adultery, drunkenness, lewdness, and deceit.  There 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 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 understood the full gospel message; he received the gift of salvation and immediately obeyed the teachings of Christ.  Most today refuse to repent; 78.4 percent of Americans claim to be Christian; 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 are self-deceived; believing themselves’ to be Christians when they are not; they seek to enter through the wide gate because it is easy and convenient; it requires very little sacrifice; but it leads to eternal separation from God.  Few choose the narrow path; it is very difficult; it requires repentance and demands transformation; but it leads to everlasting life.  Which path are you taking?  Are you willing to embrace the complete gospel and to become a follower of Jesus Christ?  If you are, then remember that “God never claimed the journey would be easy; but He did say it would be worth it.”  

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we receive Your gift, and we take hold of Your sacrifice; may we turn away from the ways of the world, and embrace the commandments of Your one and only Son.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us the courage and strength to travel 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.