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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