Archive for March, 2011

Freedom from Sin

JESUS SPEAKING

            Then Jesus said to those who believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

            They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”

            Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

             Slavery was common in the ancient world.  Although some masters treated their slaves well, most were treated poorly.  They were bought and sold like livestock.  Slaves had very few rights, and even fewer choices: they could not choose where to go, what to eat or what to wear; they could not Merry or have children.  Punishment for disobedience was often severe an occasionally fatal.  A compassionate master had the power to free a slave.  Many who were freed were given the opportunity to become permanent members of the family; similar to a son or daughter.  The master’s children often had the authority and power to grant a slave their freedom as well.  Jesus was the Son of God, and as the Son of God, he had the authority to   both, free anyone who was a slave, and grant them access in to the house of God permanently. Throughout history the Jewish people were conquered and taken in to slavery by other nations; yet, they had served an even crueler and more oppressive master than the Romans or the Greeks.  Sin was the worst of all of their task masters.  Sin had kept them from obeying God; sin had made them a disgrace to the nations; sin had fractured their marriages, and widowed and orphaned their children.  Sin had made them exploit their own people and use God’s temple to sell merchandise.  Jesus came to set them free from the bondage of sin.

             I have had many masters in my life […] alcohol, prescription drugs, pornography, fornication, mental illness, idolatry (body building), dating, envy, lust, laziness, lying, gossip, and self-centeredness (and God has delivered me from them all.)  Nicotine was the cruelest of all of my masters.  At one time I smoked nearly 2- 2 ½ packs a day.  I smoked first thing in the morning…I smoked in the car, and before and after a ‘work-out’…I smoked after I ate, and when I had a cup of coffee…I smoked before I went to bed and in the middle of the night.  There were burn holes in my clothes, car upholstery, couches, beds, and carpets.  My fingers, nose, and teeth were stained yellow.  The cigarettes were with me when I went camping; out with friends, to work, or to school.  I had to find exits in the airports during layovers.  While my friends sat through a movie, I would take a mid-movie break to get my fix.  Cigarettes kept me from making healthy relationship with healthy people.  Financially, I was spending 200-300 dollars a month to keep my lungs filled with smoke and my bloodstream bursting with nicotine.  My one constant thought was, ‘when is my next cigarette?’  After committing my life to Jesus Christ, I had a new master (I began to read the bible.)  The closer I grew to him, the less power cigarettes had over me, until finally, he set me completely free from my addiction, and added to my freedom, eternal life.

             Are you a slave to anything today?  Is there something that controls you?  You can be set free from bondage; the way to overcome sin isn’t to try harder, but to go deeper […] deeper with the savior of the world.  Read his word, pray to him, and become a disciple.  Make him your teacher, your master, and your brother; only then can you be set free.  You will remain a slave until you become a son (daughter) […] an eternal son of the one True and Living God.

             “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You to be set free from any sins that control us.  We desperately want to be Your Son’s and Daughters and to reside in Your house forever.  Save us from our bondage Lord; we cry out to You for our salvation; be our master, and may we be Your eternal children.  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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The tomb is empty

JESUS SPEAKING

            Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  She, supposing him to be the gardner, said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

            Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!  (which is to say, Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to 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 in to 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 through 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, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Blessing of Christ

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5: 3-10)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

             Thousands of people had followed Jesus up a mountain to hear him speak.  He began his discourse by pronouncing a blessing over the multitudes (a blessing is a prophetic proclamation regarding some future provision from God.)  The blessing was conditional.  Only those who were humble in life (“poor in Spirit”) would enter God’s kingdom; only those who showed mercy toward others could expect to one day receive mercy from God; only those who hungered for righteousness would find it in the life to come.  For many listening, they heard a message of hope; the outcasts, the infirmed, the poor, the lonely, the weak, the oppressed, the meek, and the suffering could suddenly have victory.  Those whose kindness and innocence had prevented them from achieving worldly rewards (success) were being promised a future reward from God.  At last, everyone who had been persecuted for obeying God could hope for the day when they would triumph over their oppressors.

             I worked in sales for many years.  Through careful observation of my colleagues, I could identify the characteristics of those who would succeed and those who would fail.  When we hired someone who was kind, easygoing, polite, soft-spoken, honest, and morally upstanding, I knew it would only be a matter of time before they were fired (not always.)  Those who succeeded were fast talkers; able to manipulate and influence others.  Kindness was only beneficial if it was beneficial.  The characteristics that made for a poor salesman were the very characteristics that God was looking for in a follower (note: not every successful salesman was ungodly; there were always exceptions.)  I discovered that worldly success and Godly success very rarely overlapped. 

             The hopes (blessings) of the Godly are no longer fulfilled in this life, but in the life to come.  Do you have the characteristics God desires?  Do you desperately desire right living?  Are you repentant, mild-mannered (gentle), compassionate, merciful, inwardly pure, peaceful, and humble?  If you are, then you too have a future and a hope.  You may have been rejected by the world, but God sees your heart, and when the last day comes, you will finally know the eternal blessings of God.  (If you seem to be more worldly than Godly, turn to Him, and ask Him to do a work in your heart, and you too might finally know what it truly means to be ‘blessed.’)

             “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and ask that You help us to be Godly in our character; that we might receive Your blessings.  We look forward to our future time with You, and ask that You give us the strength to endure the trials of this life.  Fill us with Your hope and joy, and may we always be pleasing 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.

Moving Mountains

JESUS SPEAKING

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

INSIPRED THOUGHTS

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

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

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

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask that You give us the faith to move mountains.  We desire to see You work and to accomplish the impossible.  We admit that apart from You, we are weak and have no hope; but with You Lord, nothing is impossible.  Fill our hearts with true faith; we thank You in advance for what You are going to do in our hearts and in our lives.  We love You, 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.

The real Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

            And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?”

            Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of me” (Mathew 11: 2-6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            After baptizing Jesus, John came to believe that Jesus was the messiah they had been waiting for.  He, like so many in Israel believed the Messiah would set them free from their oppressors.  Everyone was waiting for Jesus to usher in an earthly kingdom of God and put an end to Roman Rule.  John (who had been imprisoned by Herod) was growing impatient with Jesus and sent messengers to him to ask if he truly was the messiah.  Jesus simply responded by quoting an Old Testament prophecy that stated the messiah would cleanse lepers; heal the blind and the lame and the deaf; and would also raise the dead and preach to the poor.  Jesus wanted John to know he was accomplishing all of these tasks.  The Lord finally addressed John’s impatient heart, saying, “blessed are those who are not offended because of me.”  Jesus had not met John’s expectations; John had expected a conquering messiah, not a messiah that would conquer sin through crucifixion (the lord was encouraging John to accept him as he was.) Many today, like John, have an inaccurate view of Jesus Christ.  Knowing the real Jesus is essential for happiness (blessedness.)  Simple bible reading is the best way to avoid making this mistake.

             Early on in my relationship with God I made the decision that I could no longer call myself a Christian unless I actually knew who Jesus Christ was.  I knew I had to read the bible; I also knew it was going to change and challenge my beliefs.  In my heart, I had an unclear picture of God.  I chose to let go of what I thought I knew in order to learn the truth.  As I read, I began to know the one true God; instead of being disappointed, my heart has been filled with wonder and amazement.  The real God is far greater than any God I could have ever imagined.

            Do you know Jesus Christ?  Do you know his words, or are you holding on to your own expectations.  Have you invented a Jesus for yourself, or have you come to know the real Jesus?  Read his words, get familiar with his works, his message, his truth, and I promise you, you will not be disappointed; instead, you too will find something more amazing than anything you have ever known, and your life will never be the same again.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know the real Jesus.  We want to know Your Son and his message.  Implant his words within our hearts and help us to be his disciples, that we might be pleasing to You Father.  Help us to let go of our fear of the truth, and give us a hunger and thirst to know our messiah; your gift to us all.  Give us a yearning to read your word and to know the truth.  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.   

Replacing the unfruitful

JESUS SPEAKING

            He also spoke this parable:  “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  Then he said to the keeper of the vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.  Cut it down, why does it use up the ground?  But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.  And if it bears fruit, well.  But if not, after that you can cut it down” (Luke 13: 6-9.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                A parable is story used to illustrate some important truth.  The Lord’s parables contained characters and settings that corresponded to actual settings and characters during the time that he spoke them.  In this parable the vineyard owner represents God.  The ‘vineyard’ represents the whole earth which God created, and the tree represents the nation of Israel which God divinely planted in the midst of all of the other nations.  Jesus Christ represents the ‘keeper of the vineyard.’  He was God’s final attempt to produce goodness in the hearts of the Jewish people (so that they would not need to be removed and replaced.)  For four years he interceded for the Jews, hoping that they would turn and be fruitful; but they repaid his love with hatred; for kindness he was given crucifixion.  With their rejection of Christ came God’s rejection of them.  The nation of Israel was replaced as God’s representatives to the world on the day of Pentecost when Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to everyone who believed.  On that day the words Christ had previously spoken to a gentile woman came true; ‘She said to him, “You Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father […]The hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”’   Today, the new temple is the body of believers; a building composed of living stones.  The new people are all those who have received God’s Spirit and have become fruitful (Note:  Despite God’s replacement, it is clear that God has not totally cast them away.  In the coming kingdom there will be a remnant of Jews who have placed their faith in Christ; these Jews will rule and reign over the ‘Body of Christ.’)

                The human body is a wonderfully designed machine composed of many different organs, each with a different function; yet by far the most important is the heart.  It’s so essential to life that heart dysfunction is the number one cause of death in the United States.  Since 1967 it has become possible to take out a dead heart and replace it with a fully functioning one.  Many people have been saved because they were willing to part with something that no longer produced what it was intended to produce; life.

                The products of a correctly functioning believer are kindness, love, compassion, peace, respect, generosity, friendship, outreach, selfless action, patience and truth (to name a few.)  If these things are not visible in your life, then your heart may need to be replaced.  The only person who can take your dying heart and replace it with a living heart is Jesus Christ.  Ask him to make the change in your life, and he will do a miracle.  Let go of your old life and grasp on to your new life (eternal life); let his Spirit flow in to you, and you will produce an abundance of fruit.

                “Lord we desperately want to be productive for You.  We want to see others come to You and be healed.  We ask that You not forsake us, but that you give us new hearts filled with Your Spirit; and nourish us so we can produce much fruit for You.  We can’t do it on our own Lord, we need You; we need a miracle; we need a work of Your hands to be the men and women You have called us to be.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask we ask all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Is God the main course, or the sidedish?

JESUS SPEAKING

                And he looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and he saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  So he said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21: 1-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The heart is the deepest part of every human being.  Truth resides in the heart; but the heart is so deeply buried that it’s difficult to see it’s contents (most don’t even know what is in their own hearts.)  In Jeremiah we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  Who can understand it?”  Only God can truly see the heart.  God is not fooled by appearances.  Jesus watched many wealthy people approach the offering box and give large sums of money.  He saw a widow woman give two mites (one penny.)  Those who couldn’t see the truth would have honored the large donors; but Jesus was looking at their hearts.  The wealthy donors had used up the first part of their riches on themselves, and God received His share from their leftovers.  The woman however, gave from what she needed to live.  She chose to honor God rather than feed herself.  The Lord came first in her life, and for that Jesus honored her. 

                This past Christmas, while sitting around the kitchen table, my wonderful niece Jaden asked me why I talked about God so much.  To help her understand, I pulled a plate in front of me; the plate had a main dish on it, and near the edge of the plate was a smaller portion (the side dish.)  I said, pointing to the main course, “In life most people put the cares of living in the center of their plates, and they make God ‘the side dish.’  But God doesn’t want to be the side dish; He wants to be ‘the main course.’  Do you understand that?”  “Yes,” she replied.  In this scripture, we see a bunch of wealthy men who had filled their vaults full of worldly wealth, and what they didn’t consume or covet, they gave to God.  Because God was secondary in their hearts, He got their leftovers.  The widow woman however was concerned first with pleasing God, and second with pleasing herself; in her heart, God was the ‘main course.’

                Today, God is not fooled by large sums of money; he’s not fooled by crosses around the neck, or bumper stickers that say, “Jesus Saves.”  He’s not fooled by weekly church attendance either.  The world can be easily fooled, but God sees straight in to the heart.  In the heart, God is either the ‘main course,’ or the’ side dish.’  ‘If He’s not first he’s last.’  What is God to you?  Does He get the first of your time, or what’s leftover?  Does He hear prayers from you throughout the day, or only in the last few minutes before you go to bed?  Does God receive the first of your finances, or just the surplus?  Put God first in your life, and withhold nothing from Him; the world may take no notice; they will throw no parades in your honor or name any buildings after you; but the Lord, who sees your heart, will honor you; the one true and living God is watching, and He will write your name in the book of life and raise you up in the last day.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we come before You and lift You up.  You are an awesome and mighty God.  We love You Father, and we love Your Son.  Help us to make You the center of our lives.  Give us genuine hearts; hearts that are submitted to You; hearts that are wholly sacrificed for You.  May we see with Your eyes lord, and not be deceived as the world is deceived.  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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