Archive for August, 2011

Fellowship is essential

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Again I sayto you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mathew 18: 19-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The word ‘Amen,’ so commonly spoken at the end of most prayers, essentially means ‘I agree.’  ‘Amen’ is an expression used when two people have finished praying together.  Like so many Christian practices, prayer is meant to be exercised in community (as well as alone.)  No one can have a full relationship with God until they share Him with others.  When two or more gather together to celebrate Christ his Spirit is made manifest in the heart of every believer; those who are weak become strong; doubt is replaced by faith; the empty are made full, and every weary soul becomes glad.  An isolated Christian is a Christian who is weak and vulnerable to attack.  To avoid fellowship with believers is to avoid fellowship with Christ himself.      

                I have been answering prayer lines at my church for nearly two years.  Over that period of time I have been able to make some profound observations.  Those who are not involved in a church fellowship, or a small group bible study, suffer great difficulties.  Many isolators are doing drugs and struggling with grievous sins; nearly all who remain detached are in some kind of continual crisis.  On the contrary, those who express a spirit of joy are actively involved in service work; they usually attend a small group fellowship; most have made close friendships with other believers; and nearly all of them intimately share God with those who call Jesus their Lord.

                Are you involved in a fellowship today?  Do you have close Christian friends that you pray with regularly?  Is your experience with Christ exercised in community, or in isolation?  If you are not plugged in to the body of Christ, go down to your church and ask them about weekly fellowships you might attend.  They usually have lists, and you can always find one that fits your schedule.  Make friends with other believers, and pray with them daily; become a part of God’s family and be renewed by the Holy Spirit.  Without fellowship, you will never know the fullness of God’s power in your life.

                “Lord heavenly Father we come before You and ask that You help us to be members of Your body.  We desire to share You with others, and to be in fellowship with our eternal brothers and sisters.  May we draw near to one another as we all draw near to You.  May Your Spirit flow freely between us.  If we have isolated, give us opportunities to fellowship with others and to grow strong.  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.

Childlike Faith

JESUS SPEAKING

               Then they also brought infants to him that he might touch them; but when the disciples saw it they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him and said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18: 15-17.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

               Jewish mothers commonly asked Rabbi’s to bless their children (and Jesus, being a rabbi was no exception.)  To prevent him from being thronged by the crowds, the disciples acted as intermediaries; on this occasion they allowed their cultural perceptions to influence their judgment.  In the Hebrew culture wisdom was more valuable than gold; since wisdom came with age, the old were treated reverently; the young however, were often viewed as insignificant.  The disciples mistakenly attempted to deny children access to the messiah.  Jesus rebuked them and proceeded to turn the world upside down.  He shockingly proclaimed children to be the teachers, and adults to be the students.  But why would he do something so radical?  Because infants are free from manmade wisdom and human understanding.  They have not been educated by a world that denies God.  They trust completely and believe without question.  Faith in Christ is simple, and only those who become simple will enter God’s Kingdom.

               For most of my life I was taught that the evolutionary model of creation was a scientific fact.  The vast majority of intellectuals today faithfully believe the earth is billions of years old.  Yet, the earth, according to God, is less than 10,000 years old; two conflicting answers, from two conflicting sources.  As my faith in God began to grow, I came to a crossroads; believe in man, or trust in God.  I had to let go of everything I had ever learned […] much of my supposed wisdom and human understanding were sacrificed.  Over time I became an infant; ready to learn the truth from a loving Father.  Today God commands all of my faith; I have come to trust his word without question.  God is reliable, he does not lie, and he does not mislead.  He speaks the truth [NOTE:  Should the intellect be discarded?  Certainly not; God has given us a mind to help us discern what is true.  I used my mind to examine the claims of those who contradicted the creator.  I discovered many brilliant people that did not support the theory of evolution (both Christians and non-Christians); I found the facts did not support this theory either (For example, Darwin believed the cell was quite simple—like a blob of j-e-l-l-o; in turn, for nearly 200 years, college professors have been teaching that life originated by means of spontaneous generation, or ‘a-biogenesis.’  ‘A-biogenesis’ is the belief that millions of years ago, in an ancient sea, random chemicals, and lightening combined to create the first living cell (or unit of life capable of self-replication) they further believed that all living things on earth came from this one cell.  Unfortunately modern technology has made it possible to look inside of a cell (it is nothing like j-e-l-l-o; the cell is extremely complex.)  The simplest cell capable of replicating itself has more working parts than the space shuttle—not something that can randomly come together in an ancient ocean; most microbiologists have conceded that life could not have arisen on its own; ‘bio-genesis’ has been confirmed; this means no living thing can come from a non-living thing; without a foundation, the entire theory has crumbled.  The fossil record is another area of contention because it lacks any intermediary forms; an intermediary form is a link  between different species—for example, many scientists speculate that the elephant evolved from the manatee; or that the manatee evolved from the elephant (or that they are related somehow by means of evolution.)  Unfortunately, in nearly 200 years since evolution was popularized, Paleontologists have yet to discover a half manatee/half elephant.  They have yet to discover one single intermediary form linking any two distinct species.  Every species appears to be distinct and separate; as if they were all created at once.  Such evidence supports the biblical account of creation in the book of Genesis.)]

               In a world where intellect is honored and glorified, childlike faith is rare.  Where human understanding reigns, the truth of God is treated with disdain.  Those who refuse to believe and trust in God with their whole hearts will not enter His eternal Kingdom.  To understand the truth, you must let go of the lie.  Let go of what you have been taught, and become willing to learn from God.  Be reborn and put your faith in Him; put your trust in Him; and He will guide you in to everlasting life.

               “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to trust You more fully.  Remove any learning that stands in opposition to Your truth.  Help us to become simple; to become little children; ready to be taught by a wonderful Father.  We commit ourselves entirely to You.  May we completely trust Your word; may our faith in You be undivided, and may we have full confidence in all of Your promises.  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.

Have you been called?

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he said to another, “Follow me.”  But the man said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”  And another also said, “Lord, I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 59-62.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ called many; few chose to answer his call.  The calling of God demanded immediate and absolute obedience.  When Jesus called Simon and Andrew they were hauling in their fishing nets, and we read, “They immediately left their nets and followed him.”  The priority of the first man in this scripture was to attend to the burial of his father.  Jesus beckoned him to focus on the living, not the dead (the man’s Father was obviously a non-believer.)  The second man, desiring to return home and say farewell to his family, placed his loved ones ahead of the work of God.  The Jewish people were very familiar with agriculture: plowing, planting, and reaping were intimate aspects of their existence (which is why Jesus portrayed the men’s lack of compliance with a farming illustration.)  When driving the ox and the plow, the farmers eyes had to be focused on the field ahead; looking backward served no purpose other than to distract him from his necessary work.  The world is filled with diversions, obstacles, and enticements; distractions are dangerous; they can prevent the believer from reaching their eternal destination.

                According to the national highway safety commission, 80% of all crashes involve driver distraction.  The statistics proved true for a man named Stephen in 1983.  One beautiful sunny morning he hopped in his new Mercedes Benz; with the top down and the wind in his face, he set out for an important appointment.  As he drove up the coast of Southern California, he passed along the beach.  His attentions unexpectedly turned to a young blond woman wearing a bikini.  As she jogged passed his car, his eyes, heart, and mind began to follow along with her; the image of a complete stranger took priority over the road, his destination, and his new wife Sandy.  Suddenly, he smashed in to the back end of a Chevelle that had come to a complete stop in his lane.  Although his body remained uninjured, his pride, and the front end of his Mercedes weren’t quite that lucky.  While driving, the road, and what lies ahead must be the priority; it is more important than anything else; to reach the destination, one must not lose focus or get distracted.

                Jesus Christ has called many, but few have responded in the serious and immediate manner required for discipleship.  If you have felt the call of the Lord upon your life, let go of this existence and grab hold of eternal things.  Make God your immediate priority, and your everlasting Lord.  Preach the gospel to all those you meet; do the works of God, and avoid distractions; this life is a passing dream; keep your eyes, mind, and heart, focused on God, and you will surely reach your divine destination.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You would be our first priority.  Be the master of our lives.  We desire to be Your disciples and to follow You completely.  Help us to avoid distractions.  May our eyes continually be focused upon You.  Give us the wisdom and strength to finish what we have started, and to continue onward, until we reach Your Eternal Kingdom.  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 need to be forgiven?

JESUS SPEAKING

                        Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they wanted to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, he said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5: 18-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                To act in disobedience to the will of God is to sin.  A completely pure God does not associate with sinful things.  Yet mankind, the precious jewel of God’s creation, is steeped in sin; the evils of iniquity that separate God and man cannot be ignored or forgotten; they cannot be swept under the rug, or discarded; instead they can only be forgiven; God alone has the authority to pardon sinners […] The religious leaders were incensed when Jesus forgave the lame man; they believed he was a human being; they did not recognize him as the only Son of the Eternal Father; the creator in human form; “the image of the invisible God.”  He did not use words to tame the hearts of the angry doubters.  Instead, his authority was established by the two healthy legs of a once crippled man.  By the power of the Almighty God (in the presence of many witnesses) he had done the work of God; and that work continues today.  Jesus Christ has the power to displace every obstacle that stands between God and man.  He is the embodiment of God’s forgiveness; he is God’s solution to mankind’s iniquity.  Those who trust in him can finally know freedom from shame and guilt; the evils of sin can be washed away; and at last, sinful man can be in fellowship with a pure and Holy God.

                [Warning:  this illustration may be disturbing]  When I was a child, my stepfather was the local Boy Scout troop leader.  Every summer, our troop canoed around the Lake Superior peninsula.  One day, I went alone with my stepfather to inspect the next campsite.  My stepdad was well educated and well respected in the community; unfortunately he was also a pedophile.  That day I was victimized.  As we returned to the main campsite, I remained in a state of shock; later that day I recall standing on a rock near the water’s edge; I thought ‘if I just jump in the water, this feeling in my heart will be washed away.’  But the water didn’t wash away the guilt (although I was a victim, my stepfather’s sin had affected me as it was my own.)  I felt a great separation from God that day.  From that time on until I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I carried that guilt and shame around with me.  Jesus eventually accomplished what that water could not; he washed away all of the filthiness in my heart; and I have finally regained the innocence I lost so many years ago.

                There is no guilt, no shame, and no sin, that God cannot forgive.  He is ready and willing to make you clean; to cleanse you of all unrighteousness; to restore you to purity; to bring you close to your Eternal Father.  Jesus Christ alone has the authority to accomplish God’s forgiveness.  Ask him to come in to your life; to cleanse you and make you complete; and you will fellowship with Him and know his love; and you too, will finally stand before the Holy God and not be ashamed.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You remove all of our sins.  We desire to draw near to You, and to fellowship with You.  Jesus, we recognize Your authority to forgive our sins.  Please cleanse our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Wash away our iniquities and restore our innocence.  If we have any guilt or shame that we still carry, carry it for us; we give it to You now.  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.

Marriage defined (One man, One woman, One God)

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall heave 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” (Mathew 19: 4-6.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                What is marriage?  According to Jesus Christ, marriage is an eternal bond between one man and one woman; two persons become one […] complete; inseparable; and indivisible.  Divinely ordained unions are the work of God alone; (not the work of men.)  If the creator is not involved in the marriage, then he did not create the marriage.  Many today appear to be married; they live together; bear children; even wear wedding rings; but unless the marriage is built upon the solid foundation of Christ, the relationship is a performance; a charade; an act; an outward display that lacks an inward truth.  Eternal love can only be known in the presence of an eternal God.

                Gay marriage is one of the most hotly debated topics of our day.  Although scholars and well intentioned social advocates have debated it fervently, God does not debate or compromise on matters of right and wrong.  The debate was over before it started.  No matter how accepting society might become, God’s design makes no place for homosexual relationships.  No same-sex couple will ever truly be married.  Should the sanctity of marriage be rigorously applied only to those professing to be gay? Certainly not; heterosexual couples who deny God are not truly married either; for there is no eternal bond (their commitments to one another will last only as long as their bodies draw breath.)

                We commonly hear that marriage is “between a man and a woman;” and so it is; but more accurately, “marriage is between a man, a woman, and God” (Three persons, not two.)  When God is removed, there is no substitute.  Those who are gay or non-believers might be committed to one another, but they are not, nor will they ever be truly married.  Not according to the one who created and is intimately involved in every eternal bond. 

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize the sanctity and sacredness of marriage; we thank You for it, and we praise You for defining what it is.  For those of us who are married, we pray that You would be at the center of our relationships.  For those of us who are single, we ask that You guide and direct us to our eternal spouses.  May we share in what You have ordained and made Holy.  Also Lord, if anyone is in a same-sex relationship, or a relationship that denies You, we pray that they would see the truth, and turn away from sin, and turn toward 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.

The Presence of Prophecy

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all  things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For he will be delivered to the gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.  They will scourge him and kill him.  And the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18: 31-33.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Although Jesus foretold of his impending death upon the cross, his suffering had been described in detail for hundreds of years.  Throughout the centuries, the old testament prophets (inspired by God) wrote about the arrival of God’s solution to sin; a sacrifice that would once and for all put an end to the iniquity that separated the divine creator from his fallen creations (Jesus Christ, was and is that sacrifice.) 

                One major prophetic scripture comes from the book of Isaiah; the book was written between 740 and 680 B.C.  Chapter 53 is particularly interesting because it describes the suffering of Jesus in great detail (hundreds of years before the crucifixion occurred.)  We read, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare his generation? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. And theymade his grave with the wicked — but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief. When you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the labor of his soul,and be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

                Only God knows the future; only the creator can foretell of events before they occur.  Accurate prophecy is a characteristic, unique to the Holy Bible.  No other book or set of sacred writings have ever correctly predicted anything.  The scriptures are the Lord’s reliable revelation; they can be trusted.  As you read the word, remember, you are not simply reading a book compiled by men, but a book authored by God Himself.  May it inspire you, lead you, and transform you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You and thank You for providing us with the Holy Bible.  As we read it, may we approach it with reverence and respect.  Speak to us through Your word; with every word read, and every page turned, may our hearts be transformed; may we become more like You and Your wonderful Son.  We love You Father, we thank You, we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

The Holy Spirit

JESUS SPEAKING

                “I still have numerous things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you in all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you.  All things that the Father has are mine.  Therefore I said that He will take of mine and declare it to you” (John 16: 12-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Shortly before Jesus was crucified, he foretold of the arrival of a mysterious entity known as the ‘Holy Spirit;’ after the resurrection he ascended in to heaven; and he fulfilled his promise to every believer by sending “the Spirit of Truth.”  For nearly 2000 years, Jesus has been seated in glory at the right hand of God; and for 2000 years there have been countless true confessions of faith.  With every confession received, a gift has been given; the faithful obtain the indwelling of the fullness of God’s Spirit.  (Through the Holy Spirit) The desires of Christ become intuition; his path becomes transparent; evil (unable to hide) is exposed by the divine light of the living God.  Finally able to discern what is true from what is false, the new born child of God recognizes counterfeit prophets and artificial religions; the inner Spirit boldly declares the authority and authenticity of a single book; the Holy Bible.  Ignorance is no longer an excuse, as God Himself directs the steps of His Faithful followers.    

                Many years ago, I was invited to attend a church service.  Near the end of the service, there was an opportunity to walk to the front of the stage and publicly profess a faith in Jesus Christ; I went forward.  Afterwards, I was given a bible (I was afraid that the church might be a cult.)  I didn’t trust the accuracy of the bible they had given me.  So, I made my way to the local bookstore.  I asked one of the employees where I could find the “original bible.”  With a confused look she replied, ‘Let me get another employee who is a Christian; she will know more about this than I will.’  When the Christian girl returned, I explained my situation to her; “I want the original bible.”  She replied, ‘Well it doesn’t really work that way.  The original is in a different language’ (a language I did not understand.)  [Note:  she did impress upon me that the English translations were very accurate.]  After our discussion I had one of my first experiences with the Holy Spirit.  A voice spoke from my heart; a voice I didn’t hear with my ears; yet my mind perfectly comprehended what was said; the voice said, “You’ve always been too smart for your own good; just read the bible I gave you.”  Through the Holy Spirit, God had spoken to me.  I began reading the bible God wanted me to read; the bible I had received at my conversion (it proved to be exactly what I needed at the time; it was easy to read and understand.)  With every turn of the page, my heart turned more fully toward God (without the Holy Spirit I might have fallen victim to my own pride and arrogance.)

                The Holy Spirit is essential; without it we are blind, ignorant and lost.  But God in His great wisdom has said, “I will not leave you orphans.”  The Spirit proclaims God’s desires; he testifies of what is true; he helps us to choose what is good and avoid what is evil.  Believe in Jesus Christ, and you will fellowship with the living God.  Receive His Holy Spirit and you will share in the knowledge, power, and love of the Eternal Father, and His beloved Son.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we love Your Son, and we thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit.  Continue to guide us and speak to us.  With every breath, we desire to draw nearer to You.  Lead us, that we might do Your will in this place; may we bring glory and honor to You and to Your Son.  We love You Father, we praise You and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.