Archive for July, 2011

Serpents and Doves


                “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and as harmless (innocent) as doves” (Mathew 10: 16.)


                Those who accept the Holy Spirit and forsake evil are cleansed of all unrighteousness.  They are made pure; the innocence that was lost through sin is finally restored (the sons and daughters of God are reborn as doves; lacking evil intentions and immoral hearts.)  Unlike natural born children whose innocence is accompanied by ignorance, the ‘reborn’ child of God retains the knowledge of good and evil.  In the heart of every believer, innocence and wisdom exist in harmony.  The serpent is a creature that symbolizes wisdom.  In Genesis, God created the serpent to be the wisest of all the animals (Satan himself took the form of a serpent when he cleverly convinced Adam and Eve to disobey God.)  Characteristically, snakes are rarely caught off guard; they patiently wait for opportunities to strike; and they always keep their eyes on potential predators.  In a world filled with evil, God’s eternal offspring must apply comparable wisdom to avoid destruction. Like the serpent, believers must see hungry predators as they approach and turn to face them.  How can we be kind and loving toward these predators while at the same time making sure we don’t get eaten is by them?  To be both a dove and a serpent can be a difficult task that demands discipline and divine guidance.

                A couple of years ago a man entered the coffee shop I frequent; it was late in the evening and there were very few customers; he was a peculiar man dressed in work out clothing.  He spoke in broken English and began to draw attention to himself by flirting with the workers behind the register.  When the workers were distracted, the man leaned over the counter and pulled some money out of the tip jar (quickly concealing it.)  Immediately I rose up and approached the counter.  The man turned around and was greeted with a stern look.  “Put it back,” I said.  “I’m so sorry” he replied; admitting to his actions, he returned the money and begged for forgiveness.  He claimed to be starving and in desperate need of money (possibly true; possibly a lie.)  I told him that what he really needed was Jesus.  I offered to help him so he didn’t have to steal.  I gave him money from my ATM and a bible from my car; he gratefully received them and went his way.  God had given me the wisdom to recognize evil in action.  Like a serpent I was able to expose and oppose a predator.  Like a dove I avoided harming the man; instead I loved and cared for him according to the will of God.

                God has called every follower to be wise; the child of God is able to recognize and oppose evil. The believer must also be harmless; showing love and kindness to those who oppose what is good.  The wicked despise God’s children; they seek to destroy, to pervert, and to devour the faithful; but the faithful seek to build up, to love, and to convert the wicked.  Walk wisely in the ways of God, and reach out to the lost; His Spirit will shine through you; you will bring hope to the hopeless; you will lead the blind to freedom; submit yourself to the call of God, and become a messenger of light in a very dark world.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom to avoid being harmed by evil while also opposing it.  May we be kind to those who walk in darkness; employ us to love the wicked.  May Your light shine brightly through us in this dark world.  Use us to direct others away from destruction and toward eternal life.  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.

Blessings or Cursings


                “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you […] for the Son of Man’s sake […] for indeed your reward is great in heaven […] But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6: 20-26.)


                The Jewish people were very familiar with blessings (the rabbi’s would often be asked to bless certain individuals.)  A blessing is a prophetic pronouncement of some future good in a person’s life.  A cursing is the opposite of a blessing (it is a prophetic pronouncement of some future calamity.)  Jesus reveals that those who are cursed in the present will be blessed in the future, and those who are blessed today, will know future ‘cursings.’  The rich will become poor, and the poor will become rich; the sad will know happiness, and those who are happy will one day mourn.  The hungry will eventually be satisfied, but the well fed will know hunger.  Jesus lived a life of self denial; a life in which the needs of others were more important than his own (even to the point of death; because he died for others he was raised to life.)  To follow Christ in to eternal life, self denial and self-sacrifice in the present are required; followers must sacrifice wealth, power, property, selfishness, ungodly careers, time, fleshly appetites, and even a good reputation (to name a few.)  This message was despised when the Lord spoke it, and it is still hated today (Note:  Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”)  

                We need only look at credit cards to understand this scripture.  Credit cards are designed to allow a person to avoid enduring present pain.  When shopping, scores of people are faced with opportunities they cannot afford (opportunities where self-denial is required.)  Not being able to afford a product produces pain; to avoid required sacrifice, future money is spent to enjoy the present.  But paying for pleasure with money we don’t have doesn’t make the pain go away; it simply postpones it.  Eventually the pain will be endured when the credit card company comes to collect.

                Most people have spent entire lifetimes avoiding pain and indulging in pleasure; but the pain hasn’t been avoided; only postponed.  Eventually everyone has to ‘pay the check.’  Chasing after wealth, material possessions, careers, food, and even a good reputation will lead to an eternity of hardship.  Hording money and making recreation and personal time the focus of living will bring about destruction.  Those who love comfort, gossip, lusting, weekend partying, unholy relationships, and other forms of pleasure will eventually be cursed.  Self-denial and sacrifice lead to eternal blessings.  Volunteer work, giving, spending time listening to others, evangelizing, visiting widows and orphans, working with drug addicts, caring for the sick, loving others, giving people rides (all acts of selflessness will be rewarded in God’s Kingdom.)  Where can you deny your own desires to better serve others?  What do you have in excess?  Do you have time, money, or knowledge; what can you give away?  When you deny yourself in this life, and make others more important, you are serving the Living God; and in turn, you will serve Him in the life to come.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You will help us to endure pain and to give away what we have in excess.  May we deny our own wants and pleasures to fulfill Your purposes in the lives of others.  Father, help us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and to follow You.  Reveal to us where we can be more selfless; where we can be more giving; and where we can be more like 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.

Four types of Hearts


                But when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parable […] And He said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes instantly and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a short time.  Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, right away they stumble.  Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4: 13-20.)


                Jesus had just finished presenting an agricultural parable to the masses (A parable is a short story that illustrates a deeper truth; to discover it’s meaning, the listener is forced to think.)  In the parable, a farmer went out to plant his crop.  His seeds landed on four distinct types of soil: hard soil; rocky soil; thorny soil; and good soil.  The disciples approached Jesus afterwards to find out what the parable meant; he lovingly explained its deeper meaning to them.  The seeds represent the word of God (the message of salvation.)  The soil represents the human heart; every heart is either hard, rocky, thorny, or good.  Only the good heart is capable of producing fruit.  When God’s word is allowed to grow unrestricted, it yields an abundance of loving works and infiltrates the hearts and minds of others.

                Let’s take a closer look at each type of heart:  Hard hearts cannot be penetrated […] God is rejected without contemplation or consideration.  Occasionally a little grey haired man enters the coffee shop I frequent (he is a lawyer who defended Charles Manson.)  I give him rides from time to time and try to help him when I can.  Although in his 90’s and near death, he still has a great distain for God and is quite a vocal atheist.  In our discussions, his rejection of God is outright and he refuses to listen.  His usual response is, “Do you know how many wars have been fought in the name of religion?”  He often goes on to make jokes about the Catholic priests that have been caught molesting children.  His heart is as hard as stone; any efforts to reveal God’s truth to him are in vain; I have ceased trying to do the impossible.

                Unlike hard hearts, stony hearts are just soft enough to receive the gospel […] God’s word penetrates, and takes root.  But difficulties arise; sacrifices must be made; and sinful practices need to be discarded.  To avoid hardship, God is denied authority or is discarded completely.  A friend of mine once eagerly received God’s word.  He soon came to a crossroads; he was required to give up fornication (sex before marriage.)  He refused to sacrifice his lust, so instead he sacrificed his relationship with God.  Over the years he has gone from woman to woman; he is currently with a woman who denies Jesus Christ entirely (Being a Christian is an unpopular and narrow road; it requires sacrifice.  Jesus actually told his disciples to, “Count the Cost.”  It is very costly, but it is also worth the cost.)

                Those with thorny hearts allow God’s word to penetrate them deeply (their initial response is similar to those with good hearts.)  They endure initial sacrifice to follow Jesus; however, as the years pass, thorns begin to grow in their hearts.  (Thorns are weeds; weeds infect the soil around useful crops; they compete for nutrients and resources; unless plucked out, they decrease the productivity of the plant, and can even cause it to die completely.)  Careers, bank accounts, hobbies, homes, relationships, and recreation are weeds that can grow in the heart.  They can compete with God for time, energy and resources.  In 1966 a committed follower of Jesus Christ began working for a Christian television network.  His heart was likely filled with good intentions.  He hosted some programs that became wildly successful.  Like many television evangelists, he did on-air fundraising; his love for Christ began to compete with his love for money; he started committing fraud and gave himself 3.4 million dollars in bonuses.  In 1988 a Federal grand jury indicted him on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy; he went from serving God, to serving time in prison.

                The rarest of all hearts is made up of good soil; these hearts receive God’s word and it fills them completely.  They exist to spread the word of the Lord and to bring others to the knowledge of God (without falling victim to apathy or idolatry.)  Nearly 2000 years ago a man named Paul received Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.  From the day of his conversion he tirelessly sought to spread the gospel to every living soul.  His faith and determination did fade with age (his last days were just as spirit filled as his first days.)  He wrote a great majority of the letters that make up our new testament.  Near the end of his life, prior to be being beheaded for the lord, he wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will give to me in that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

                 Today, which type of heart beats in your chest?  What kind of soil has God’s word encountered within you?  Have you denied God access to your heart?  Have you allowed Him to enter, only to eventually kick him out?  Have you allowed other things to displace the prominence of a savior in your life?  Or perhaps your heart is one of the rarest of all of God’s creations; a heart completely submitted to the word of God.  If God’s word lives in you, may you never let it go; may nothing compete with it; may you cast sin aside and allow God to lead you.  Let His word produce fruit in your life and give Him the opportunity to pour out of you and in to the hearts and lives of others.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, soften our hearts, that Your word may find it’s home in us.  Help us to cast away sin, and to embrace sacrifice; knowing that our reward will be great.  Remove any distractions in our hearts that compete with You.  Compel us to spread Your word to others, that we may bear much fruit for 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.

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