Archive for November, 2010

Doing Good, or avoiding Evil

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” (Mathew 7: 12.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                This verse has commonly become known as ‘The Golden Rule.’  There were a number of philosophers and spiritual guru’s throughout history who stated something similar to this rule, but with a fundamental difference; all of them phrased it in the negative; for example, “Do not do to others, what you would not want others to do to you.”  Because of their negative phrasing, they were all in opposition to the rule Jesus stated in this verse.  He phrased it in the positive, meaning, “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.”  Those philosophers had made the avoidance of evil their main focus.  Jesus placed the focus on the good actions to be done, rather than the evil to be avoided; instead of trying to not steal from others, he would have everyone give to others (a spirit of generosity automatically negates the spirit that moves a man to steal.)  Instead of trying to avoid speaking negatively about others, or gossiping, the disciples of the Lord were to say good things about people (a person can remain silent all day and avoid speaking evil, but their silence would also make it impossible for them to say anything good.)  Instead of trying not to lie, Jesus required that the lies be replaced with active attempts to speak the truth. 

I have had a number of opportunities to interact with Buddhists.  The most enlightened ones are the ones that spend a great deal of time in meditation.  Some even become monks, who live in monasteries and sit alone in silence and meditate for days on end.  These monks make sure to not step on any bugs, or living things, because they believe this to be evil.  They believe the avoidance of evil makes them good.  In essence, they become ‘shut-ins’ who avoid doing evil, but in their isolation they become incapable of doing the most good.  Jesus made it clear that to not do good was to do evil.  The monks who spend ten hours a day in meditation might be wasting time they could have used to love others, reach out to others, and give to others; and in turn, those ten hours they were not doing good, might become ten hours of evil (the very means by which they attempt to avoid evil (going in to seclusion), can become the very thing that creates evil in their lives.  (We are all guilty refusing to do good, not just Buddhist monks; if we are all guilty, we are all called to change.)

                Today, examine the areas of your life where you are not doing good, and there you will find the presence of evil.  When God gives you the opportunity to be kind, if you are not kind you have transgressed against God.  If you are focused on not sinning, remember that you are sinning if you are not doing good.  You might make it through the whole day without lusting, swearing, or even thinking a bad thought, but if you have done nothing good for another person you have fallen short of the glory of God.  Jesus said, “Let your good deeds so shine before men, that others look at you and glorify your Father in heaven.”  How long does it take to smile at another person; how long does it take to ask about their day?  How long does it take to buy a meal for someone, or give to the needy?  How many minutes does it take to say a prayer for someone while you are driving?  How long does it take to text message a scripture or loving message to a friend, or enemy?  How long does it take to care for your family, or give to a stranger?  How much effort does it take to buy a gift for someone, or visit a person who is sick?  Is it difficult to pick up a piece of trash, or to hold a door open for someone?  There are more good acts that can be done daily than can be numbered.  The key is, stop focusing on not missing the mark, and start trying to hit it!  Begin to love others with the kind of love that crosses boundaries and disarms the strong.  Let’s show others the love of God; the love that God himself has shown us.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would please help us to remain proactive in our faith, and to focus on actions we can take to love others, and to show others Your love.  If we are trying to avoid evil without focusing on doing good, please help us to change.  Open our hearts and our minds to new possibilities and help us to not be afraid to cross the boundaries you have not set.  Give us discernment and hearts eager to do good.  Help us to minister to others, and to show Your love to a world full of people who need to see it.  We love You Father, we thank You and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God Bless all of you.

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Misjudging the Heart of God

JESUS SPEAKING

             Now it came to pass, when the time had come for him to be received up, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for him.  But they did not receive him, because his face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them just as Elijah did?”  But he turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”  And they went to another village.  (Luke 9: 51-56.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                As Jesus made his way through the cities and towns he sent his disciples ahead of him to prepare the people for his arrival.  Most Jews and Samaritans greatly disliked one another.  Hundreds of years before Christ arrived, the Babylonians conquered the Jews.  They took the Jews from that area as slaves and gave the property to their own people.  When the Jews returned from captivity, they discovered a population of foreigners settled right in the middle of their country; these foreigners came to be known as the Samaritans (the hatred was so bad that the Jews would often go out of their way to travel around Samaria to get where they were going.  The Jews thought Samaritans to be so dirty that if they traveled through Samaria many Jews would take the time to dust off their sandals before entering another town so that the dirt from Samaria wouldn’t mix with the dirt in Israel.)  This single village of Samaritans had rejected Jesus.  James and John felt so insulted and dishonored by the rejection (perhaps because they were Samaritans) that they asked Jesus if they should destroy the village with fire from the sky as Elijah had done in an earlier time.  [Elijah was a powerful Old Testament prophet who was hated by an Evil King of Israel.  The king sent out fifty men to take Elijah; when they arrived Elijah called down fire upon them and they were all burned up.  The king sent another fifty men to take Elijah; as they approached Elijah called down fire from heaven and consumed the men.  Finally, another fifty men were sent to take Elijah, but the captain of the men immediately dropped down before Elijah and begged and pleaded with him not to kill them.  Elijah was merciful and went with them.]  The disciples no doubt believed those deaths were pleasing to God; so they strongly desired to bring down a fiery destruction upon the Samaritan village.  Jesus identified their evil desire as being from the Spirit of Satan.  [All of their actions were motivated by either the Spirit of God (love), or the Spirit of Satan (hate.)]  The Disciples desire came from a hatred for those who had just rejected them.  Jesus reminded them that he did not come to destroy sinners, but to save them.  Those closest to Jesus misunderstood his message, and his purpose, and even what he desired. 

                Prior to Nelson Mandela (a black man) taking office, the government of South Africa was run by Caucasians.  [to the best of my knowledge]  When the day came for him to take office, all of the white political employees were boxing up their things and leaving the building out of fear, and out of a belief that he was going to fire them and bring in a staff of all black individuals.  Much to their shock, he called a meeting and asked the white employees to stay; they were shocked, and so were his black supporters who expected him to take revenge on those who had imprisoned him in a one room jail cell for nearly 27 years.  (He chose to work with the white leaders who had put him in prison, instead of overthrowing them.)  Those closest to him had misjudged him; they had allowed their hatred and evil desires toward the whites to blind them as to the true intentions and purpose of their leader.

                Many people today have grossly misjudged God’s intentions and desires.  Some believe that God’s desire is to hurt them and to make them suffer.  Many see God as a creator who is just waiting to cast them in to hell if they screw up.  However, God is a God who loves all of his children.  He chases after those who are living lives full of sin instead of condemning them.  He sees every person as irreplaceable, and His heart is grieved when his children do harm to themselves and reject Him.  God is not some unfeeling, unemotional being; He is loving, compassionate, and He feels emotional pain.  Just as a Father who loses a child feels a continual sadness and grief, so God feels sadness and grief for the lost.  Many of us have misjudged our God’s heart, and his intentions.  We may see sinners as enemies, as evil, or even as dirty.  But God sees them precious children he desires to return to Him.  As believers we have an obligation to reflect God’s heart accurately to others; they need to know that God loves them and seeks reconciliation.  The first step toward this goal is becoming familiar with the heart of God.  You cannot accurately share about something you don’t know or understand; as you grow closer to God, your desire to share his message of love will flow out of you naturally.  People need to here that God does not desire to destroy them, but to give them life.  When know God you can tell others with confidence, “God loves you, and I love you too.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You would help us to share Your heart.  Help us to look upon others as opportunities to love with the heart that You have give us.  Father, give us confidence and boldness to speak on Your behalf.  Please help us to refrain from doing anything in the Spirit of Satan; rather, help us to do all things in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Fill us to overflowing with Your love, with Your life, and with Your truth.  Give us opportunities to share with others what we have learned from You.  Most of all Father, help us to resemble Your Son in all that we do.  If there are any areas of our hearts that still seek selfish ends we pray that You would heal them now, and bring them in to submission to Your heart and to Your will.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you and have a happy Thanks Giving.

Don’t be afraid of a new life!

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put in to new wineskins and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5: 37-39.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the ancient world, skins were used to store and carry liquids.  When an animal was slaughtered the stomach and the bladder were taken out and fashioned in to pliable liquid holders.  The skins would dry out and become rigid.  When these skins were used to hold wine, they needed to be flexible because as the wine fermented it would expand, and if the wineskin was not flexible, it would break.  No one would take unfermented (new) wine and put it in to an old wineskin, but instead they would make sure to put it in to a newly fashioned skin.  This is an illustration was used to show the incompatibility between the ‘old covenant’ and the ‘new covenant.’  The ‘old covenant’ (Old Testament) and ‘new covenant’ (New Testament) were two different contracts between God and man.  In the Old Testament, gave guidelines for the removal of sin; everyone had to sacrifice animals to receive forgiveness from God (this was tedious and time consuming and was a burden on the people.)  This covenant began with Abraham (approximately 2000 years before Christ); God promised him that through his descendents a permanent solution would be provided in the form of the messiah (Jesus Christ: approximately 33 A.D.)  Jesus was presenting himself as the solution, or the promised one, and with him came a completely new message; one that should have been accepted readily, but was rejected outright by the religious leaders.  Many of them had gotten so used to sacrificing animals (the old way), that even after Christ was crucified they still refused to accept his blood for the forgiveness of their sins (the new way.)  In the upper room at the last supper Jesus made a new agreement with mankind; he took a cup of wine and said, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  God’s provision would come in the form of the blood that he shed on the cross.  2000 years had passed, and God had finally fulfilled his promise the day of the crucifixion.  The majority of the Jewish people rejected this sacrifice.  He spoke of those who rejected him when he said, “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”

                As a newborn Christian I very much enjoyed listening to secular music.  I liked heavy metal and rap; it was usually filled with fowl language and ugly beats.  I decided to move forward and listen only to worship music, which was uplifting, and clean, and edifying to my mind and spirit.  My appetite for the old music was strong, and at first the new music wasn’t appealing to me.  Slowly I began to enjoy the new music.  Soon I was singing along with the tunes.  Occasionally I will hear an old song and it no longer appealing to me; in fact it repulses me.  God has made similar changes in every area of my life.  He has healed me, and made life new, and fulfilling, and completely different.

                Today, many people are incapable of receiving Jesus Christ because they are afraid of the changes that will occur in their lives.  The religious leaders denied Christ because they were afraid; are you afraid today?  Are you afraid of letting go of the old life?  Don’t be frightened, accept the Lord, partake in the cup he has asked you to drink of.  Have you put your faith in Christ?  Have you allowed him in to your life and in to your heart?  If you have never accepted him and his sacrifice, I want to give you that opportunity now.  What you are about to read is a prayer of acceptance?  Take a moment to think about what this commitment means…You are turning away from all that this world has taught, and you are making a commitment to listen to Jesus Christ; you are committing to doing all that he has taught you to do.  You will be a member of the body of Christ, and you will need to find a local church and begin to attend that church.  You will need to make prayer a daily habit.  You will also need to get a bible and begin reading it daily.  Your first mission will be to tell someone else about your decision….Take another moment to consider the new life that awaits you……………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..If you still wish to accept God’s promise and His Son, and are willing to go forward, then let’s begin….What you are about to read, read out loud,  or within your own heart, but mean what you read.

“Lord Heavenly Father, I’m sorry for all of the things that I have done in my past; for the people I’ve harmed and for all of the times that I have sinned against you.  I don’t deserve your love Father.  I come before you now and I want to receive the Holy Spirit, and I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that all the things that I have done have been forgiven because he has made me clean.  I ask you to come in to my heart, and to come in to my life now and to guide me and direct me in all that I do.  I give you my whole heart, and my whole life, right now.  I love you Father, I thank you, and I ask and I pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.” If you prayed that prayer, you have an eternal life with God, in a kingdom that will never end.  God bless you all.

Are you ready?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21: 34-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus gave his followers a warning to be ready for his return (second coming.)  The focus was to remain on him and on the future kingdom.  He recognized that human beings tended to get distracted, and he addressed those distractions here.  He had commanded his followers to give their excess wealth away; to refrain from sexual immorality; to desire being servants rather than masters; to deny their own wants, needs, and desires, and to place others ahead of themselves.  To follow these commands sounded like non-sense to those who did not believe in a future eternity with God.  Whenever a person loses site of the eternal, they inevitably begin to live for themselves; they desire wealth, material possessions, beauty, and control; they indulge in their own wants and desires, often without restriction (they lay down the future to take hold of the present; whereas believers set aside present distraction for their future hope.)  Jesus identified three symptoms of a distracted follower; first, carousing: which is identified as the habitual use of alcohol (excessively celebrating every night of the week.)  A second symptom of distraction is drunkenness: which is alcohol consumption in excess (the typical Jewish wine was a mixture of 4 cups of water with one cup of wine; hard to get drunk from this type of combination, unlike today where it is commonly 4 parts liquor to no part of anything else.)  A third distraction would be the ‘cares of this life:’ these cares are anything that distracts a person from focusing on the life to come; which could include money, alcohol, house, cars, kids, career, health, beauty, children’s education, 401 k plans, recreation, a woman or a man, a home, free time, etc.  These distractions cause a person to not be prepared for the return of the Lord.  He likens the day of his return to a snare (a snare is a hidden trap that catches unsuspecting prey in the wilderness.)  That day is completely hidden, and many people who aren’t prepared will be caught by surprise and destroyed by it.  Jesus is warning us that each day we should be expecting him to return, and behaving accordingly.  Distractions can be very deadly.

                Text messaging is a relatively new term in the American language; it is usually used in describing communication between people, and is often described positively.  But recently, text messaging has been associated with tragedy.  All over the country people are more regularly text messaging while driving motor vehicles.  The results have been disastrous.  One case involved a very prominent plastic surgeon who was apparently text messaging when he drove off of a cliff and tumbled to his death.  You might ask, “What could have been so important that it was worth dying over?”  Sadly, Dr. Frank Ryan was twittering a message about his dog that was with him in the car when he drove off the cliff; he died and his dog was badly injured.  Dr. Ryan set out on a journey, but got distracted, and as a result he never reached his destination.  So many people who believe in Jesus Christ start out on a journey toward an eternal destination, but never make it, because they get distracted by some meaningless worldly pleasure or concern.  Something that seems so harmless can lead to destruction; something meaningless can rob a person of an eternity with God.  This doctor was not thinking that death would arrive at his doorstep when he was eating breakfast; he never thought that would be his final car ride; he didn’t wake up in the morning and savor the sunrise knowing it would be his last.  Yet, death came for him quickly, and without sounding an alarm.  Jesus as well, will come for each of us in like manner.

                Today, are you expecting Jesus to return, or are we expecting him to come at time that is more convenient for you?  Are you focusing on the cares of this world?  Have you allowed distractions to take your eyes off of Christ?  How can you keep your eyes on Jesus and not get distracted?  Firstly, the word of God is a road map that helps you to continue heading in the right direction.  Reading the bible daily is essential for reaching your destination.  Praying is another tool that allows god to guide and direct your life.  There are so many opportunities to pray; in the shower, in the car while driving (eyes open please); silently while in line at the grocery store; perhaps while you are on a nightly walk.  The key is, to connect with God in your heart.  Also, fellowshipping with other believers is essential, as is ministering to the non-believers.  You can talk to others about your faith, and you needn’t be ashamed of the God you call your own.  Also, any time that you do what God has commanded, you are moving forward and keeping your eyes on the eternal things in life; giving money to those in need; listening to someone without talking; showing love to a stranger; visiting the sick; returning grocery carts; picking trash up off of the ground when we see it; smiling at people; complimenting others when you see them doing something worthy of praise; sharing scripture with others, etc.  There are so many possible ways to do Christ’s will, but they are all acts of love.  The best way to not do the wrong thing is to continually being the right thing.  Give your whole life to the Lord, make him the central figure in your heart and life, and on the day that he returns, you will not be surprised, or frightened; but rather you will be filled with joy at the knowledge that an eternity with Jesus Christ awaits you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and lift You up; You are worthy of praise and honor and glory.  Father we ask that You would please remove the distractions from our lives, and help us to focus on the return of Your Son.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit speak to us and give us conviction and knowledge of Your will for us; give us also opportunities to serve You and to serve others.  Help us to recognize moments when we can connect with You Father.  May we always be ready Lord for the conclusion of Your plan, and for the life to come.  We love You Father, we love You Lord, and we love You Holy Spirit, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Strangers and Foreigners

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus was speaking to a town full of people who had seen him grow from a boy into a man. Before all of his miracles he probably worked as a carpenter.  Those people knew of him, and knew his family quite well.  In Mathew 13: 55-56, the towns people say, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us?”  Jesus was a real live person, with brothers and sisters; he interacted with others; he didn’t live in a monastery; he ate, slept, went to the bathroom, worked, played, laughed, and cried; he attended the festivals and wore the robes (but never once did he sin; never once was he displeasing to God.  (In fact, we read in other scriptures that his brothers disliked him; living beside Jesus was probably a very humbling experience for them.)  Jesus addressed two prophets in this scripture who had been rejected by their own countrymen.  Elijah and Elisha were explosive characters in the Old Testament who performed all sorts of miracles.  Elijah caused a drought to last for three years in Israel because of the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time, he went to a foreign land and stayed with a widow who was near to starvation; God provided them with enough food to survive the three years while all Israel went hungry.  Elisha was Elijah’s protégé who took over after Elijah was taken up in to heaven.  Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army; an army that was continually at war with the nation of Israel.  He so desperately wanted to be healed that he reached out to the enemy’s prophet for help.  God used Elisha to heal Naaman, an adversary of his people, and not one leprous Israelite was healed by Elisha during this time.

                I grew up in a little town in the middle of nowhere?  I moved away and found California more interesting than Michigan; it was new, and fun.  The place where I grew up was something I had taken for granted; I was so familiar with it, I had a hard time seeing its beauty and majesty.  These men and woman Jesus was speaking too had grown up with him; they had known him from his childhood, but they made the mistake of believing he was less worthy of being praised because of it.  God and human beings are not equal; God is in heaven, and human beings are beneath Him; God is all powerful, and human beings are weak.  God is pure and holy, and human beings are impure and unholy.  The Jewish people had been taught to reverence God, which was a good thing; many had gone too far, and saw very little of God in humanity; yet God had made human beings in his likeness and image; so man is shaped like God; man feels similar emotions to God; man thinks similar thoughts (this is why people desire to design and build things; God is a designer and builder; this is why human beings desire to master their environment; because God is the master over the entire universe.) So, because they saw God as distant and unfamiliar; they felt anger toward a man claiming to be God because they were familiar with him.  The concept challenged everything that they had wrongly come to believe.  Had they known nothing about Jesus; if he was from a distant country or foreign land, they would have been more open to receiving the message; instead they allowed their knowledge of him to blind them from seeing his true identity.  In the nation of Israel today there are very few Jews who profess a faith in Jesus Christ, or a faith in God period (There are many messianic Jews around the world who have accepted Christ and call him ‘Teacher,’ and ‘Master,’ but not in Israel.)  The people of God have been blinded.  Jesus delivered a message to them, and because of their disbelief, the message went out from Jerusalem to a world full of strangers and foreigners.  Non-Jews have been healed by the millions and whole countries have converted to Christianity. 

Often we share the message we have received with those we expect will be most receptive to it; our family, and friends, co-workers and acquaintances.  We will often find the opposition from these individuals is great.  Many times the person you’d least expect to receive the message will be the one who receives it.  When others have rejected the message, move forward; God wants you to bring his love to any who will listen (this does not mean you stop loving everyone; it means you are called to produce fruit, and when a certain person isn’t fruitful you focus on someone who will be.)  Reach out to the strangers, to the foreigners, to those you’ve never met, and God will show you a harvest you could never have imagined.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You guide us in spreading the gospel to whomever You desire.  Help us Lord to let go of ministering to those who are not going to receive You, that we might go on to reach those who will.  Give us courage and boldness to stretch out to those we don’t know; to those who are strangers and foreigners.  Guide us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be Your messengers.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

God’s Truth

JESUS SPEAKING

                At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the son, and the one to whom the son wills to reveal him” (Mathew 11: 25-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus thanked God the Father for hiding the truth from the wise and prudent.  Instead, it pleased God to make the truth known to the simple minded.  The hidden truth was the identity of Jesus, and his relationship to God.  All that God had made and all that existed had been given to Jesus.  Youth was something that the Jews equated with stupidity and weakness.  In fact, in a group of Jewish men, they often spoke in order of age; the oldest spoke first and the youngest spoke last.  The very old were held up as more honorable than the youth.  Here Jesus was flipping Jewish culture on its head.  They believed that with age came wisdom; wisdom was seen as something that could be attained, discovered, sought after and grasped.  Jesus made it clear that true wisdom could not be attained, but rather, it could only be received from God.  God was truth; a person’s closeness to God indicated how much truth they had attained.  The only one who had ever truly known God was him, and so, the knowledge of God could only be revealed to others through Him.  Sin separated a person from the knowledge of God, because God’s spirit did not fellowship with evil; Jesus, being sinless and the son of God had perfect knowledge of his Father, and he delighted in revealing that knowledge to those who were simple.  The truth was given to the ignorant and unintelligent.

                Young children are often better at recognizing evil than are adults.  As a child, we once had a teen age baby sitter come over to watch my sister and brother and I.  He got in to the liquor cabinet.  He began to drink; I was curious and so he handed me a shot glass full of liquor.  As soon as I tasted it, I spit it out.  The liquor tasted so horrible, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would drink it.  Children are often far better at discovering who a person is by what they do, not by what they say.  Adults are often blinded enough to trust a person’s words without seeing congruent actions.  [Words turn in to lies when they don’t match up with actions; actions are always the true, and kids know it.]  Children can often identify the sin in other people’s lives without needing to see it, or understand its nature; they intuitively know things, because God’s spirit is a voice they hear from within.  Growing up there was a local child molester that made my friends and I uncomfortable; each of us intuitively new that there was something strange about him, and later our suspicions were confirmed; yet the adults in the community were more than happy to trust him with their children; after all, he was a lawyer and a prominent citizen.  As many children grow, they stop hearing that voice.  When a person receives the Holy Spirit, that internal voice returns; they again become able to sense good and evil with ever greater accuracy.  I believe this was what Jesus was talking about when he said, ‘You must become as a little child.’  Physical age is no longer the indicator of purity, goodness, and an understanding of God’s simple truths; a 50 year old can again be as a little child, on the inside.  God’s truth returns, and the simple are restored [but immediately God’s truth is at war with the intelligence of this world.]  Intellectualism is man’s attempt to master knowledge without God.  Intellectuals look down upon those who believe God is the answer for ‘how’ and ‘why’ instead of their beliefs in ‘time’ and ‘chance.’  They laugh when a person without a high school diploma seeks to tell them about the truth.  They live in their minds and their hearts are completely empty.  They search the stars for an answer they cannot know with their minds, but must comprehend in the deepest parts of themselves.  They look under every rock for an understanding that doesn’t include God, and when they observe something new, they believe they are getting closer to an answer; but they have only discovered new questions [They never arrive at any true meaning or purpose.]  Those who have found Jesus Christ don’t need to search any longer; those who have looked to him, now know the truth; they have received the truth from God, and have come to understand that no one can ever discover the answer unless God himself gives it to them.

                Today, intellectualism, and rationalism are duking it out with ‘faithfulism.’  Our truth comes from God, and apart from Him, understanding is dark and deceitful.  When we read an author, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Are they a believer?”  If they are not, then we must read carefully and critically [the same is true of television programs.]  We must begin our day upon the unchanging truth we have in Jesus Christ, and if, in order to learn something new we need to depart from the teachings of the Lord, it isn’t worth learning.  The truth is not in some text-book, it isn’t expressed in an equation, but it resides in our hearts, as God himself lives within the believer.  This knowledge cannot be acquired or attained; you cannot earn a PHD in truth; it comes from a growing relationship with God.  As you move closer to Him, your vision will become clearer, and clearer.  Reading the bible is a very good way to continue your journey with God.  Prayer is another way; pray for wisdom and knowledge specifically.  Most importantly, doing what God has asked you to do, will bring you closer to Him.  Lastly, you never have to be afraid of the truth; never be embarrassed that you believe in something the intellectuals of the world thinks is archaic and narrow minded, but rather rejoice, knowing that you have truly found the answer that has, and will continually allude them unless they give themselves over to the creator of all things.  If you don’t know the truth, ask God to give you the truth; ask him for his Holy Spirit in prayer in His Son’s name, and you will receive what you ask for.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would give us more of Your truth, and more of Your goodness, and help us desire to be simple and reliant upon Your word.  We pray for those who are lost, those who are intelligent in their own thinking, and those who trust in the achievements of men.  Help us to be as little children, to look to You in all that we do, and to desire the knowledge of Your Holy Spirit.  We love You Father, we thank You, we praise You, and we love You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

Keeping your word (Can you be trusted?)

 JESUS SPEAKING

                “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Mathew 5: 33-37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                There are two types of oaths; a person can testify about the past, or they can testify about the future.  One is a testimony, the other is a prophecy of sorts.  In this scripture Jesus is referring to testimonies about the future.  God’s truth is revealed when what he has said comes to pass.  In a more limited way, God’s children make future plans, and fulfill them, and to do anything less would be lying.  In order to make an oath more permanent, and of greater importance, often times a person would invoke the name of God, and still others would swear by some other honorable thing.  For instance, sometimes when a person wants to affirm that they are telling the truth they might say, “I swear to God.”  They may also say, “I swear on my mother’s grave.”  Others might say, “If I’m lying then may lightning strike me dead,” in which case they would be using their lives as collateral to bolster their believability.

                Jesus was doing something in this scripture that sent shockwaves through the Jewish communities.  God had said that a person should ‘perform their oaths to the Lord.’  Jesus made his own words equal to God’s words, saying, “But I say to you do not swear at all.”  There was no disagreement between what Jesus was saying and what God had said.  He agreed with God that oaths made to the LORD were binding.  He knew how serious an offense it was to break such an oath; in turn, he urged his listeners to refrain from even make such an oath to begin with.  He went on to denounce four things that were commonly sworn by.  Swearing by heaven was to desecrate the Holy dwelling place of God.  Swearing by the earth was outlawed as well.  To swear by Jerusalem wasn’t right either, because it was the city in which Jesus was going to be king, and in which God Himself dwelled.  Lastly, Jesus forbade swearing by one’s own life.  In reference to using our own lives as collateral, Jesus made it clear that no one knew the time or hour that God had appointed for them to die.  How then could a person who didn’t know if they would be alive the next day make an oath to fulfill an obligation a month from then?  Oaths to God were eternal, and binding.  Since God required them to abide by their oaths there were very few instances when oaths were appropriate [It was better to not swear at all.] (Marriage may have been an exception, as it was an eternal covenant between a man and his wife before God.)  Anyone who needed to use God or some other Holy thing in an oath lacked integrity.  Many who have had trouble keeping their word have used God as a tool; something to motivate themselves to keep their word.  Making oaths can indicate that a person isn’t truly submitted to God.  Today, Jesus requires that when we say we are going to do something we do it.  When we say, “Yes,” God requires us to do what we have agreed to do.

                In our culture, tattoos are on the rise.  People have found them to be somewhat permanent modes of expression.  Recently I spoke with a girl who had numerous scriptures tattooed on her body.  She had been struggling to stay on task and live a life that was pleasing to God.  At some point, she felt the need to get His words put on her body.  When an eternal relationship with God isn’t present (or is weak) inside of a person, they make external reminders for themselves of something that is missing inside of them (this is not always the case.)  The same thing is true of those who say they are going to do something and don’t do it.  Many times, they feel that making an oath to the Lord will ‘seal the deal,’ but it very rarely changes anything.  The person is trying to exploit God for their own purposes, and this is why Jesus says that making oaths to the Lord is from the evil one.  God is not a thing to be used selfishly.  Instead, we are to simply keep our own word, and by doing so, God is pleased.

                Today, many have difficulties keeping their word.  If we are fickle, if we are given to saying one thing, and doing another, we are not followers of Jesus Christ.  There are cases where we may be sick, or an emergency arises, but aside from situations such as these, there is no excuse for missing appointments, letting others down, or cancelling at the last minute.  The Lord will not tolerate this type of behavior; it is lying in advance.  If a person who is not a Christian can be counted on to do what they say more than you or I, then we are not Christians.  Don’t make plans you can’t keep; in fact, the bible tells us that it is often better to replace ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with, “God willing, I will be there.”  As much as is possible, focus on the things you can accomplish today.  Don’t be a people pleaser, taking on more than you can possibly do because you want the approval of others; this will lead to broken promises; it’s okay to tell others no; it’s not okay to tell others yes, and then no.  When someone asks you for a favor, and you don’t have time, lovingly tell them no.  Don’t say yes and then not show up because you’re overwhelmed.  Be on time for things you’ve agreed to be on time for, and if you are going to be late, then call ahead to let them know.  [P.S.  The enemy will very often throw obstacles in your way that will test you…Perhaps that person you really wanted to go out with calls you last minute, and your group function interferes with a possible date.  Do you cancel on your group, thinking, “I’m sure they won’t mind?”  No; it is not pleasing to God to forgo your commitment to indulge in some selfish pursuit?  What you have agreed too, complete.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You now, and we ask and pray that You would give us the strength to complete everything that we commit ourselves too; we desire to be like You, and bring glory to You.  Lord, help us to be men and women of integrity; people who don’t need oaths, since our words can be trusted, because You are living in us.  Give us the conviction to complete whatever we have committed too.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 


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