A father’s love

JESUS SPEAKING

          “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’  So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with riotous living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed the swine.  And he would have loved to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when his Father was still a great distance away, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But his father said to his servant, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring out the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15: 11 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          In this parable, the Father represents God, and the son represents every sinner who has wandered away from Him.  The ‘far country’ is figurative of the life of sin that many engage in when they turn away from the Lord.  The Sons return to his father symbolizes the act of repentance and rebirth that accompanies salvation.  In this passage, the prodigal son misjudges his father’s response to his return; believing he will be treated as a servant rather than a son.  Much to his surprise, he is lovingly embraced and honored.  The father is so overjoyed that he immediately orders the household to begin celebrating the occasion.

          Many years ago, prior to my conversion, I was actively abusing drugs and living in sin.  My family suffered greatly as they saw me spiraling downward.  My dad lived in a state of perpetual fear; not knowing when he would be informed of my death or incarceration.   Eventually I got sober, got a job, and gave my life to Jesus Christ.  Because I had been received, reborn, and embraced by my heavenly Father, my earthly father had gotten his son back as well.  My dad told me, “Out of all of your siblings, you are the one I worry about the least.”  On my wedding day, he looked at me with fondness and said, “You are my miracle.”

          Although earthly dads often possess great love for their children, God is far more affectionate.  He loves even the worst sinners.  The magnitude of His fondness is immeasurable.  He tirelessly seeks the lost, and is always ready to receive those who have wandered away.  May we share that same love; may we share that same heart; and may we continue to search for and embrace those who need to know the love of their Heavenly Father.

          “Almighty God, Everlasting Father, we are amazed at the enormity of Your love.  We are astonished by the depths of Your mercy and grace.  Fill us with Your desires, that we may share Your heart and seek those who have wandered away.  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.

Relying on God’s Power

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this very night, for it is written:  ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you that this very night, before the rooster crows, you shall deny me three times.”  Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you” (Mathew 26: 31-35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

         Peter boldly rejected Christ’s prophecy; he vainly exalted himself above the other disciples, saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Despite great effort, he would go on to deny the Lord three times before morning.  Jesus promised that he would eventually send a replacement; after his resurrection and ascension, he fulfilled his commitment; Peter and the other disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  After receiving God’s Spirit, Peter’s strength was restored; he immediately entered a crowded temple and boldly preached the gospel.  The Peter that denied Christ leaned on his own strength; the Peter that proclaimed Christ relied upon God’s power.  For the sake of Christ, Peter went on to endure beatings, imprisonment, persecutions without number, and even death [he was crucified upside down in the city of Rome.]  Without God, it is difficult to accomplish even the simplest tasks.  But with God, it is possible to move mountains.

         Peter shares the experience of divine empowerment with some other notable men of the bible.  While the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, a young Hebrew man named Moses who had grown up in Pharaoh’s household, believed it was his destiny to free his people.  One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian task master, beating one of his countrymen.  Filled with rage, and a sense of duty, he killed the Egyptian.  In an effort to conceal his crime, he buried the body beneath the sand.  The body was discovered, and a few days later, Moses’ life was in jeopardy.  Alone, and defeated, he fled to the desert and became a shepherd.  For decades he cared for livestock.  At the approximate age of 80 God appeared to him and instructed him to return to Egypt to free his people.  He responded by telling God he wasn’t ‘the right man for the job.’  He no longer believed he was capable of accomplishing the task.  A once prideful and self-reliant young man, had become an old man who recognized his own weakness (apart from God); he was finally ready to be used by the Lord.  The young Moses, with his own power, was unable to bury even a single Egyptian.  The mature Moses, utilizing God’s power, led a nation to freedom, and buried the entire Egyptian army beneath the waves of the red sea.

          Western culture promotes self-reliance; in the divine culture, reliance upon God is paramount.  Is there anything in your life that you are trying to accomplish on your own?  Are you attempting to endure a difficult trial unaided?  Are you struggling to overcome an addiction in isolation?  Do you look to God for provision, or are you the provider?  Your best efforts will never compare to the works of God.  No matter how large the obstacle, or how great the need, if you humble yourself, you will harness the power of the one true and living God.  Do this, and you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4: 13.)

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we honor and praise You.  You are an amazing God.  Apart from You we are weak and incapable of accomplishing good things.  Be our strength; may we rely upon You and not upon ourselves.  Give us victory over the things that cause us to stumble; may we stand firm, may we endure, and may we overcome.  May our hearts be humble, and our lives filled with joy.  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.

Demonic Possession

JESUS SPEAKING

          “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to the house from which I came.’  And when he arrives, he finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then he goes and takes seven other spirits, more wicked than himself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11: 24-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Evil spirits, although often considered to be a myth, are very real.  They dwell within the hearts of those who deny God.  When an individual receives Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, all demonic apparitions are expelled; the child of God is set free; the chaos and devastation of evil living subsides; the believer ceases to engage in self-destructive behaviors; their hearts are purified and their minds are quieted.  The dispossessed demons however, are not satisfied unless they are causing misery and pain.  So, they often return to their previous hosts, stronger and more determined than ever.  They tirelessly seek to turn the faithful away from God; sadly some fall victim to their schemes and reject the Holy Spirit.  Without the Lord’s protection, the blasphemer is again invaded by demons and their lives plummet back into destruction (a destruction far greater than any they had previously known.)

          I once met a man who had been a pastor for many years.  After he had received the Holy Spirit his life began to change in wonderful ways.  He experienced an immense peace and began to preach the gospel with great enthusiasm.  He served the Lord for some time, before suddenly renouncing the faith.  Soon after his denial of Christ, he joyfully began to engage in strange sexual deviancies with multiple partners; he also started smoking, and boasted of his severe daily dependence upon alcohol.  Additionally, as an atheist, he actively attempted to turn others away from the faith.  I would occasionally see him out in the community from time to time; and he appeared to be physically and mentally deteriorating (a condition I could only attribute to demonic possession.)  The words of Christ are true, in that this man’s situation is worse today than it would have been if he had never received the Lord.

          Demons are very real; they roam the earth, trying to possess those who are weak.  Individuals who receive the Holy Spirit are no longer capable of being possessed.  Unfortunately some believers do eventually reject the Holy Spirit; in turn they are possessed and their lives plummet into even greater chaos.  Maintaining our close relationship with God through prayer, bible reading, fellowship, and obedience, is the best defense against evil spirits [If you have never received the Spirit of God and you would like too, please contact me and I can lead you in a prayer of acceptance and faith.]

          “Lord Heavenly Father, give us more of Your Holy Spirit.  Deliver us from evil, and protect us from demonic attacks.  Remain in us and continue to work through us; give us the strength to endure; may we never turn away from You; may we always continue in Your ways; and may we never return to the bondage of sin and death.  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.

Powerful Conversions

JESUS SPEAKING

          “While I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.  And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me, saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  “So I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’  And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by their faith in me’” (Acts 26: 12-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          There was once a very angry young man named Saul who passionately hated Christians; after Jesus ascended into heaven, Saul traveled from synagogue to synagogue, beating, harassing, and even killing those Jews who openly professed a faith in Jesus Christ.  One day, while traveling to Damascus to persecute believers, God intervened in Saul’s life.  Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘it is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  [Oxen were trained to pull heavy plows; an untrained ox would often try to kick itself free.  In turn, farmers attached sharp pieces of metal to the plow (otherwise known as ‘goads.’)  When the ox kicked the plow, it would stab itself in the leg; the harder the kick, the more painful the sensation.  After a short time the animal would learn to accept its position.]  Like an untrained beast, Saul had been struggling against the call of God.  After his visitation, Saul finally quit fighting; he accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior; he also changed his name to Paul, and went on to write many of the letters in the New Testament.  Throughout history, some of the greatest Christian leaders have often been those who were once devout enemies of God.

          Sir William Ramsay was one of the most influential scientific minds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He taught at Oxford, and is credited with discovering several new elements; he also received numerous scientific awards and honors.  Ramsay had been raised as a non-believer; his parents were atheists (a disposition he also clung to for most of his life.)  He had little respect for Christianity; in fact he claimed that the bible was nothing more than “a book of fables.”  He began to study archaeology and eventually he traveled to the Middle East in hopes of disproving the historical accuracy of the bible.  After 25 years of travel and research, he was forced to concede that even the most minuscule details of the New Testament were accurate.  Instead of writing a book disproving the validity of scripture, Ramsay wrote a book entitled “St. Paul, the Traveler and Roman Citizen.”  In it, he presented his findings; all of which supported the reliability of the bible.  Convinced by the evidence, Ramsay shocked his colleagues and fellow intellectuals by announcing that he had converted to Christianity.

          Like Paul, and like Sir William Ramsay, there are many today who are kicking “against the goads.”  God however, is still actively intervening in the lives of atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers the world around.  If you are raging against the call of God, stop struggling; give up, and give in.  Let the Lord into your heart; He will replace your pain with peace; your hatred will give way to love, and your sorrow will turn to joy; if you would only surrender to Him, you would know true freedom; for you would come to know the eternal and everlasting God.

          “Lord Father, may Your perfect will be done in our lives.  We pray for those who “kick against the goads.”  Soften their hearts and cleanse their minds, that they may come to believe in Your Son, and in the redemption he has offered through his sacrifice.  May they embrace and receive Your free gift of salvation through faith.  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.

Marriage is Permanent

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then the Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.  And He answered them saying, “What did Moses command you?”  They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘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.”  In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.  So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: 2-12.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          The religious leaders asked Jesus a controversial question concerning divorce (controversial even today.)  They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  Jesus’ answered ‘No.’  He then referred to Adam and Eve as an example of God’s divine will concerning marriage.  In ‘the beginning,’ God created two people; Adam and his wife Eve.  They were created for one another; God intended them to be one inseparable person; one being, in eternal fellowship with Him.  They longed for one another and had no desire to be apart.  Divorce is not God’s creation [Although God did not create divorce, according to Jesus, He allows it in only one instance.  Sexual immorality, such as adultery, is a just cause for divorce.]  The bond between a husband and wife is sacred; and if broken, produces a plethora of eternal consequences.

          Every human being alive today is the product of the union between two people.  When the first cell is formed in the womb, it carries with it, all of the information necessary to create a person.  Half of the instructions come from the mother, and half come from the father.  The child may have the father’s eyes, but the mother’s hair; their mannerisms and behaviors will partially reflect either parent in some way.  Imagine attempting to separate the child in two; ‘half of Dad over there; half of Mom over here.’  Can a human being be divided in such a way and still hope to live?  No; any attempt at separation would surely result in death.  When two people get divorced they are trying to separate what cannot be separated.  Sadly, many married couples choose to divide and in turn they choose death rather than life.

          Today, anyone seeking to be married should understand that there is no turning back; there is no ‘jumping ship;’ there is no dividing what God has made one.  Divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality leads to death.  Although marriage is meant to be a blessing and a gift from the Lord, at times it can be challenging and extremely difficult; despite the challenges however, it is most certainly permanent; it is a contract that can never be broken.  So take the time to consider what marriage means before you enter into an eternal union with another human being.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, please give those who are married the strength to continue forward in love with their eternal partners; may they understand the permanence of their marriage vows.  Also, provide those of us who are not married with wisdom in choosing our future wives and husbands.  Lord, continue to guide Your children; that those who love You may avoid the snares of death, and the tragedy and misery of divorce.  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 Wisdom

JESUS SPEAKING

          “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons.  You will be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.  But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.  Therefore settle it in your hearts not to think beforehand what you will answer.  For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all of your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21: 12-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Jesus prophesied that his disciples would suffer persecution; they were all eventually arrested, and 10 of the 12 disciples were put to death.  Although they had committed no crimes, they were brought before kings and rulers, and compelled to testify concerning their faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus commanded them to refrain from rehearsing their testimonies prior to being questioned.  Preparation had the potential to hinder the proclamation of God’s wisdom.  Human effort needed to be abandoned, and God’s power had to be embraced.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God spoke through the disciples, and He continues to speak through His people today.  Questions are still being asked and God is still answering them clearly and without error.

          Sometime ago, a woman who had gone through brain surgery reached out to me to discuss matters of faith.  Seeking answers she wrote, “I don’t understand why some suffer such heartache and trials beyond our choosing, and others, often those who are seemingly evil, are blessed beyond belief.”  The Holy Spirit immediately gave me the answer to her question.  The answer did not come from me, but from God.  I simply quoted one of Christ’s parables: “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores, who was laid at his gate; desiring to be fed by the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  Then the time came that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The rich man also died and was buried.  And being tormented in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

         The correct answers aren’t ours to give.  All genuine wisdom and understanding comes from God, and the Holy Spirit directs and guides those through whom He chooses to speak.  Only God has the right answers.  Only God speaks without error.  In this world, human wisdom battles against divine wisdom.  True victory can only occur when God’s wisdom is proclaimed.  Let God’s words flow from your mouth; give Him the opportunity to speak to those who have questions; let them find real meaning; let them be satisfied with the correct answers; and may the one true and living God make Himself known to all those you meet.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You, and we ask that You fill our mouths with Your words.  Speak through us, and communicate with those who would seek to question and examine our faith.  May You reveal true wisdom to those who lack understanding.  May we be Your messengers to a world that does not know You, and may all those who oppose You be put to shame.  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 Tomb is Empty

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

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

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

           The work that began with Mary on that third day has continued throughout the generations, and continues even today.  Anyone who goes looking for Jesus Christ in a dusty tomb is looking in the wrong place.  He is very much alive, and is seated at the right hand of God.  Frank Ross and Mary Magdalene, both set out to find Jesus; and they both found what they were looking for […] have you gone looking for him yet?  Have you made your way to the tomb and looked inside?  You too, will discover that Jesus Christ is not dead, but alive.  When you find him, please let others know that there is a God, and that they can discover him too?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Your Son rose from the dead.  We believe that he is seated with You in Your Kingdom.  We desire to carry this message to others; give us the strength to bring what we have discovered to the world.  May we be bold in declaring that we have encountered the risen Lord, and the living 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, Amen.”  God bless all of you.