Archive for January, 2011

Wise and foolish builders

JESUS SPEAKING

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall” (Mathew 7: 24-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Everyone who has heard the words of Christ can be placed in to one of two distinct categories.  Individual membership in to one group or the other is based upon the hearers response to the Lord’s teachings.  One group puts in to practice what they have heard and one group does not.  Those who take action are wise while those who do not are foolish.

Both groups are likened to builders, who undertake the construction of a house.  One builds on solid rock (unmovable, sturdy, and permanent), another group builds on sand (movable, shifting, and impermanent.)  Every human being is a building, and their actions and behaviors are the result of following a blueprint.  Some blueprints are horrible, some are wonderful, but only one blueprint is eternal.  The wind, and the rains, and the floods that Jesus spoke of are the forces in life that attempt to break us down, cause us to fail and to lose hope.  Everyone suffers set-backs; everyone suffers trials, and those who don’t practice the teachings of the Lord crumble when those trials arise.  When a person acts and behaves in a manner that is pleasing to God, they are laying their lives down upon an eternal foundation.  They are building a life for themselves in a place that will never end; even when this world fades away and dies, those who have lived for Christ will never die, breakdown, or be destroyed.  They are eternal.

Are you the wise or the foolish builder?  There are a thousand self-help books, and endless television programs that offer advice on better living; but there is only one book that turns a better life in to an eternal life.  God has written a book, and in it are his blueprints; the directions begin with a foundation; Jesus Christ is that foundation.  Read his words, and do his words, and when this world passes away, you will not pass away with it; instead, you will spend an eternity with him in paradise, and the joy of the Lord will never depart from you.

“Heavenly Father we come before You and we ask that You empower us to do follow the commands of Your beautiful Son.  May his words be our blueprint for living.  Give us further opportunities to apply his teachings and give us a deep pleasure and satisfaction when we know we followed Your instruction.  Father help us to strive to please You, and to be a blessing to all those around us.  Give us the strength of Your Holy Spirit, and guide us in all that we do.  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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Fruitful Branches

JESUS SPEAKING

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15: 1-5.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Wine was a very common commodity grown in Israel.  Most had a working knowledge of vineyards.  In a vineyard there are main vines that carry nutrients to the branches.  There are two types of vine branches, just as there are two types of people. There are those who produce fruit, and those who produce nothing.  A good branch produces fruit because it has a favorable connection with the main vine.  Many branches are grafted in to the main vine; often they can come loose and fall out and die.  Jesus Christ is the vine that connects every person to God’s power; he brings life to all those who remain in him; whenever a person chooses to disconnect from Jesus, they become unfruitful, and eventually they die.

Before I was plugged in to Christ, I was a taker; none of my behavior’s produced anything.  I fed off of whoever was around me.  One day, I remember bumping in to a person who was plugged in to Jesus Christ.  I asked him about a possible work opportunity counseling people at a crisis ‘hot-line.’  He told me they didn’t have any openings for paid positions, but he encouraged me to volunteer.  I remember thinking, “Why would I volunteer?”  There was no advantage for me in volunteering.  The very thought of doing something for nothing was crazy.  Good works (the fruit of those connected with God) were foreign, because God was a stranger in my life.  After being saved, and plugging in to Jesus Christ, I began to produce fruit.  I began to give people rides and buy things for those in need.  I started volunteering regularly.   I was able to visit orphanages and tend to the sick.  I reached out to those who needed help, and instead of taking, I began to give.  A man dying of selfishness, began to live selflessly.  An unfruitful branch began to produce much fruit.

Every human being has a function, and that function is to produce fruit.  Unless a person is plugged in to Jesus Christ they will remain fruitless.  Is your relationship with Jesus strong?  Are you plugged in to the ‘true vine?’  Are you connected to the Lord today?  How can you get connected?  You can read his words, you can pray, you can obey, you can love others and make every effort to please God.  When you are plugged in to Jesus Christ you will produce much fruit.  Your life will be filled with good works, and the love of God will spill out of you and in to the lives of others.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we lift You up and honor You Father.  We ask to remain in Your Son Jesus Christ; help us to abide in Your true vine, that we would produce much fruit for You.  Give us more of Your Spirit, and may Your words remain in our hearts.  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 Power or Your Power?

JESUS SPEAKING

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this 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, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will 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

Jesus was about to be seized by the temple guards and crucified.  He told his disciples that they would abandon him upon his arrest.  Peter exalted himself above the other disciples, saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Jesus told Peter his attempt to remain strong would end in failure; and indeed Peter went on to deny that he ‘knew Jesus’ three times before the morning had arrived.  Peter overestimated his own abilities to endure persecution and suffering without Jesus.  (Jesus had provided for their needs; he had protected them; their strength came from him; when Jesus was taken from them, they became as weak as any other men.) After Christ rose from the dead and ascended in to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit (God) in to their hearts.  The same Peter who had denied Christ three times in fear, marched directly in to the temple filled with people who had crucified Jesus, and he preached the gospel with boldness.  He went on to endure beatings, and a life filled with persecutions, until finally being crucified in the city of Rome (upside down.)  What was the difference between the Peter who ran away, and the Peter who willingly endured a lifetime of suffering for his faith?  The first Peter relied on his own strength, but the second Peter relied on God’s strength.

Another example of reliance upon God comes from the Old Testament.  When the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, a young Israelite named Moses believed he was destined to free his people.  One day, as he saw an Egyptian beating one of his countrymen, he killed the Egyptian, and buried him in the sand.  A few days later it became known to him that his attempted burial had not worked, and that the Pharaoh was likely seeking his life.  Moses fled to the desert defeated, and spent decades shepherding sheep.  God appeared to him when he was nearly 80 years old and told him to go back in to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery.  He responded by telling God he wasn’t ‘the right man for the job.’  He didn’t believe he was able to accomplish the work.  A once prideful self-reliant young man, had become an old man who recognized his weakness apart from God, and for that reason, he was finally, ‘the perfect man for the job.’  The first Moses, under his own power, was unable to bury even one Egyptian.  The second Moses, under God’s power, lead a nation to freedom, and in the process, was able to bury the entire Egyptian army beneath the waves of the Red Sea.

Western culture promotes pride and self-reliance; but in the divine culture, reliance upon God is paramount.  Is there anything in your life that you are trying to accomplish on your own (outside of God’s power?)  Are you trying to get through a trying time without utilizing God?  Are you struggling alone with an addiction or a bad habit?  Are you seeking to fulfill a need in your life without asking for God’s provision in prayer?  Are you trying to repair some pain in your heart with positive thinking, or will you give in and ask for God to heal you?  Humble yourself, and know that apart from God, failure awaits; but take heart, for with God, nothing is impossible.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we lift You up in honor.  You are truly amazing.  We recognize Lord that apart from You we are weak and incapable of accomplishing great things.  We ask You to be our strength; help us to rely upon You and not ourselves.  Give us victory Lord over the things that have caused us to stumble, and may we stand firm, knowing that You are holding us up.  Give us humble hearts that desire to be close to You.  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.

Two types of servants

JESUS SPEAKING

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.  Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.  But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mathew 24: 45-51.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

A sizable Middle Eastern home in the first century had one master (usually the father or patriarch), and many servants who strictly adhered to the commandments and directions of their master.  Often, when the master went on a journey, he placed his most trusted servant in charge of the household.  This parable utilizes a common cultural illustration to describe a heavenly truth.  In the parable, the master represents Jesus, who would shortly ascend in to heaven with the promise of his eventual ‘second coming.’  He left the apostles and all future believers (servants) with his power and authority, and a mandate to serve others, to love others, and to always be prepared for his immediate return.  Jesus describes two types of servants (the faithful and the wicked.)  The Faithful servants are those who follow orders, and who in love, provide for the needs of those they serve; the reward for their service is eternal life.  The wicked servants are those who start out in faith, serving others in obedience to Christ; but who lose heart over his delayed return and begin to mistreat those they are given.  The wicked servants walk away from serving and begin to serve themselves and their own sinful desires.  The reward for their disobedience is eternal death in hell, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Before I knew the Lord, I had very little respect for anyone, or anything.  One night, after getting drunk with friends and acquaintances, we began to smash everything in my apartment.  We smashed beer bottles, plates, a window, (a car windshield got broken as well, I believe) and the toilet overflowed and caused damage to a lower apartment; the mess was overwhelming (someone had even written something disgusting on my mirror with shaving crème.)  My Dad had been paying for the apartment which was rented through some family friends; he would come through periodically to inspect the apartment.  That night I had passed out, thinking I could clean the mess up in the morning.  Much to my surprise, I woke up to my Dad standing over me, yelling my name.  I jumped up in distress and in shock; there was glass everywhere; I began to frantically clean up the mess.  My Dad had rented the apartment for me and placed it in my hands to respect and take care of; but I abused it.  I thought I would have time to make everything look nice before he could see anything.  I was wrong; he showed up at a time when I didn’t expect him, and in an hour when I wasn’t prepared.  He saw that I was unworthy; in his absence I used my freedom to abuse what he had given me.

Jesus Christ has been gone for nearly 2000 years; and for nearly 2000 years he has appointed servants to represent him in his absence.  The good servants are those who have respected what God has given them; they have kept the spirit of the unexpected return of their master.  A good servant follows commands.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have been given commandments and responsibilities that require your attention.  Your life is no longer your own, but you play the role of Jesus Christ in this place and in the lives of all those you know.  He loved, he sacrificed, he prayed, he taught, he inspired hope, he healed the broken hearted, he brought light in to dark places, he spoke the truth, he forgave sins, and above all he served others.  How does your life resemble his life?  Are you serving Jesus Christ today, or are you serving yourself?  Are you taking care of what he has given you, or are you abusing it?  Be a good servant; always be ready for the return of your king, and may he find you serving him in a manner worthy of an eternal reward (the reward is well worth the effort.)

“Lord Heavenly Father we come before You and we honor You.  We ask that You make us obedient servants, and give us a heart to serve others, and to continue on in Your work.  Help us to let go of our own lives, and live them in submission to You.  We so desperately want to be the good servants that are continually ready for Your return.  Please mold us and shape us in to the image of Your Son.  Give us opportunities to reveal Your love to others.  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.

 

Relying on God

JESUS SPEAKING

Then He called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over demons, and to cure diseases.  He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  And he said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money.  Whatever house you enter stay there, and from there depart.  And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.  (Luke 9: 1-6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Jesus first gave the disciples his power and authority, and sent them out; those who didn’t receive the disciples rejected the Christ who sent them (many today still reject those who come to them with his message.)  Jesus desired the disciples to rely on God for provision.  They were not allowed to take a bag or extra clothing (as many do when traveling.)  They were forbidden to take food for themselves.  They were instructed to leave without money, and to travel without a staff (for protection.)  The disciples were learning to trust solely in God for their provision.

In another portion of scripture, Jesus interacted with a very wealthy man who desired to follow him.  The man found himself in a dilemma when Jesus told him to first sell everything that he possessed.  The man left sorrowful, because he chose the security of his riches over the eternal life.  After the man departed, Jesus said to the crowd, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.” The wealthy learn to trust in their riches rather than in God.  The world promotes self-reliance, but those who are alive in Christ learn to rely on him.

Today, when a problem arises in your life, what do you turn too?  When you lose a job, do you spend time in prayer, or do you spend time at the local pub.  When you need something, do you stretch out to others before stretching out to God?  When you are feeling rejected, do you look for a relationship, or does God become the love of your life.  God is pleased when you lean on him; when you rely on him; when you trust in him.  Give God the proper place in your life; He is just waiting […] yearning to provide you with whatever you need, all you need to do is ask.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we lift You up, and we praise You and we thank You for Your goodness.  Father, please provide for our needs, and help us to trust in You and not in ourselves or others.  Show us areas where we need to make You our strength, and take away those things that we are trusting in outside of You.  We desire to do Your will, and to carry Your message in to the lives of others.  We need You to guide us, and to give us the words to speak; so use us Lord to do Your will, in this place.  We love You, 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.

 

Divorce is Forbidden (with one exception)

JESUS SPEAKING

The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.  And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted 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,’ and referred them back to Adam and Eve to help them understand God’s Will concerning marriage.  In the beginning of creation, God created two people; Adam and his wife Eve.  They were created for one another and designed to be one being in eternal union with God (inseparable.)  They needed one another in order to live.  They had no concept of separation or the desire to be apart.  Divorce is no creation of God’s design; yet God does allow it in only one instance […] in another scripture, Jesus states that “sexual immorality” is just cause for divorce.  Sexual immorality would be any type of intercourse or sexual contact outside of the marriage (which might include idolatry, or looking at others to lust for them (pornography/nudity?))  If a husband or wife commits some act of “sexual immorality,” the spouse who was faithful can divorce and remarry.  The spouse who was unfaithful however, is no longer allowed to remarry.  The bond between a husband and a wife is sacred and if broken has eternal consequences.

Every human being alive today is the product of the union of two people.  When the first cell is formed in the womb, it carries 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.  The child’s mannerisms and behaviors will partially reflect both parents; they may have dad’s smile but mom’s temperament.  Imagine attempting to separate the child in two once they have been born; half of Dad over here, half of Mom over there.  Can a person be cut in half and still hope to live?  Any attempt 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 themselves and in turn they choose death instead of eternal life.

Today, anyone looking to get married should understand that there is no turning back; there is no jumping ship; there is no division of what God has made one.  Any attempt to separate from a spouse (unless there has been “sexual immorality”) will bring death.  Marriage is meant to be a blessing and a gift from the Lord; but it is challenging, and it is permanent; so take the time to consider what marriage means before you enter in to eternal unity with another human being.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that if we are married, You would give us the strength to continue forward in love with our eternal partner; help our relationships to be filled with true love for one another.  Father, also, for those of us who are not married, provide us with wisdom in making decisions about who we will bind ourselves too eternally.  Help all of Your children 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, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

 

Striving for power and influence

JESUS SPEAKING

Now there was a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.  And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22: 24-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The disciples believed that Jesus was about to be crowned king and that he would place someone in authority over the rest of them (a sort of ‘right hand man.’)  So they were arguing among themselves about who this might be.  (They misunderstood the kingdom, and what type of crown Jesus was about to receive; instead of Gold, his crown would be made of thorns.)  Jesus implied that the disciples were behaving as the gentiles (a gentile was anyone not born of Jewish descent.  The majority of Christians today are gentiles; although believers should not behave as gentiles.)  The Greek/Roman culture was dominant in the 1st century and they surrounded Israel.  The Greeks and Romans enjoyed working out naked, and bisexuality and homosexuality were rampant; they enjoyed watching men kill each other in the coliseums, and prostitution was incorporated into their religious practices.  What truly set them apart from the Jews however, was their social structure.  There were elite aristocrats, military leaders, and government officials near the top; they dominated and abused the people who were lower than they were.  Slavery was massive (in many places the majority of people were slaves), and men and women were bought, sold, and used just like items you might find at the grocery store (the culture was so class oriented, that there were even class systems within the community of slaves; 1st class slaves, and 2nd class; 1st class slaves had some rights.)  From birth, the Greeks/Romans measured success based upon social ladder climbing; the further up the chain one would go, the more valuable they were.  The Jewish culture on the other hand was vastly different; most Jews saw themselves as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father; equal in the eyes of God; yet the social influences of the world had made their way in to the hearts of the disciples, whom Jesus corrected promptly.  He instructed them that greatness to God meant service to others.  They were to desire to be lower than others, rather than superior to them.

The United States today is a gentile nation.  Many people are driven by the desire to move up, and to gain advantage over others.  A gated community is better than an apartment complex; it is better to be the boss than it is to be the employee.  Most government offices are filled with people who enjoy power, and wealth, and influence.  There is a class system in the United States just as in the days of the Greek/Romans.  But it shouldn’t be that way for those who call themselves disciples, believers, or followers of Jesus Christ.

Jesus asks his followers to turn away from striving for power and influence and instead to strive for lowliness.  He wants believers to stop climbing the social ladder, and begin climbing the spiritual ladder.  The spiritual ladder leads to places of humility not prestige.  Is it more appealing to you to be a master or a servant?  Do you see other people as tools to gain advantage in life, or as opportunities for service?  Stop striving for worldly greatness, and make an effort to serve others, to love others, and to attain greatness in the eyes of God.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You make us servants.  Take out of our hearts the desires for worldly greatness and give us strong desires for spiritual greatness.  We desire humility rather than riches, and love rather than silver and gold.  Give us opportunities to serve You, and to serve others.  We love You Lord, 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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