Archive for September, 2011

The glory of God

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”  Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that he took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  As he prayed, the appearance of his face was altered, and his robe became white and glistening.  And behold, two men talked with him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  But Peter and those with him were very sleepy; and when they were fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him […]while he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son.  Hear him!”  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen (Luke 9: 27-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus told his disciples that some of them would see God’s Kingdom before they died.  Eight days later, Peter, James, and John witnessed God’s perfect order.  They were suddenly awakened by a splendid vision; a revelation of Jesus Christ in his glorified state.  His garments were as white as snow, and they shimmered with astonishing beauty.  His face shown like the sun and illuminated Moses and Elijah (two Old Testament prophets who appeared with him.)  In the Kingdom of God, Jesus is the source of all light.  He is not just a man; nor is he merely a prophet; he is the physical manifestation of God Himself.  The Father’s glory (or light) radiates from His Son and fills every corner of heaven; those who enter the Kingdom glow as they absorb the light of Christ [In the Old Testament, Moses climbed to the top of Mount Sinai to speak with God.  During his conversation he requested that God appear to him.  For Moses’ sake the Lord refused; but he did allow him to see His glory (or radiant glow.) In Exodus 33, we read, ‘Then He said […] “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live […] So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand […] Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”  Moses had absorbed the glory of God and his face continued to shine as he descended the mountain.  The glow was so brilliant that the children of Israel were afraid; to calm their fears, Moses covered his face with a veil.]

                In life, truly incredible moments are rare; instances of such great peace and joy that if it were possible to stop time, we would live in those moments forever.  My moment occurred one summer on the shores of Lake Superior.  As a child, my family often vacationed at our cabin near the beach; we would go hiking, fishing, and boating; we relaxed around an open fire and cook hot dogs and marshmallows.  We also went swimming and water skiing, but the lake was never warm; in fact, it was down-right frigid.  One morning, my cousin and I had spent too much time in the water; (I’m sure we came out with our bodies shivering and our teeth chattering.)  Luckily there was an asphalt road right next to the beach that would heat up by midday.  On that nearly unused highway, my cousin and I stretched ourselves out like lizards; the sun warmed our backs, and the road warmed our bellies; in that moment I experienced a feeling of complete peace.   Encased in the warmth of the sun, I was whole.

                One day, the Lord’s true servants will exit this cold and dark world, and will enter in to the light and warmth of Jesus Christ (the glory of God.)  All of God’s children will live in the splendor that emanates outward from Him; and every believer will be transformed in the presence of their messiah.  Those who inherit eternal life will exist in communion around the one true and living God.  From Him flows life, and love, and peace without end.  Are you looking forward to seeing God face to face and basking in His glory?  Are you able to comprehend the goodness of that future time?  Are you prepared to enter the rest that Jesus Christ has been preparing for you? 

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we live in a cold world, but one day we will live eternally with You in Glory.  Strengthen us Father, that we may always do what is right.  May we guide others to Your Son; may we strive to save the souls of those who are lost.  May we always be pleasing to You; help us to be a light to others; that many may see our good deeds and desire You.  We look forward with great joy, to our future time with You in Your 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.

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Are you teachable?

JESUS SPEAKING

                [The Lord had just finished healing a blind man; but Jesus was gone by the time the man’s eyes had completely healed.  The Pharisees, seeking to expose Jesus as a fraud, brought the man in for questioning.  After a lengthy examination, the Pharisees banned the man from their synagogues because they hated their messiah.] […] ‘Jesus heard that they had cast him out (the blind man he had healed); and when he had found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He answered and said, “Who is he Lord that I may believe in him?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen him and it is he who is talking with you.”  Then he said, “Lord, I believe!”  And he worshipped him.  And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”  Then some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these words, and said to him, “Are we blind also?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘we see.’  Therefore your sin remains” (John 9: 35 – 41.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                There are two kinds of disciples; those who can be taught, and those who can’t.  Although there are many reasons why some students fail to learn, the most pervasive is pride; a student who already knows everything is no longer teachable (rigid intellectualism is stupidity impersonating true wisdom.)  Those who possess great knowledge are often the most misinformed.  For example, many religious leaders who interacted with Jesus were very well educated; they were proud of their intellectual superiority; they were blinded by pride and they rejected the Son of God.  In turn, when Jesus Christ chose his followers, he did not seek scribes or rabbi’s; nor did he approach priests and Holy men.  He did not scour the ancient centers of higher education; nor did he hunt for scholars at the great theological institutes of his day; instead, he lovingly embraced fishermen, prostitutes, and tax collectors; he selected them because they were eager to admit their ignorance (and to listen in humility); because they were willing to learn, societies outcasts became God’s first choice.

                Historically, surgeons have been society’s most well educated professionals.  In the 1800’s most surgeons wore white butcher’s aprons; as they operated on different patients, more blood would accumulate on them.  Most Doctors refused to wash them, because a strange but powerful custom had arisen; a surgeon was considered accomplished based upon how bloody his apron was (the more blood, the better the surgeon.)  During this time, a young doctor named Joseph Lister was conducting medical research; he discovered that 40-50% of amputee victims died from secondary infections (infections that resulted from the procedures themselves).  He proved that cleanliness and disinfection of surgeons, instruments, and staff, would reduce the amputee mortality rate to 15%.  The results of his research however, brought him in to conflict with the majority of his colleagues.  Most surgeons scoffed at his suggestions because it meant they would have to give up their bloody aprons.  Many educated men became unwilling to learn.  Their delay in applying Dr. Lister’s suggestions caused the deaths of thousands of patients.  Although the changes were slow, they were eventually established.  By the time Joseph Lister retired in 1893, nearly every medical institution had implemented his sanitation procedures.

                Pride can blind even the most intelligent people; much learning often stands in the way of true comprehension.  Those who know everything are not teachable (and unable to follow God.)  Those who admit their ignorance and let go of any ideas that oppose the teachings of Jesus Christ, are wiser than all of the scholars, scientists, and doctors who have ever lived.  Disciples must become blind before they can see; they must be ignorant before they can attain true wisdom; they must be willing to lay down human understanding, before they can pick up the cross.  Listen to the Lord and He will guide you; have faith in Him and you will know truth; follow Him, and you will enter in to everlasting peace [Note:  Not all educated people are ungodly; God has gifted many people with great minds; there are also many uneducated people who reject Jesus Christ.  Learning is very beneficial, but only if it does not oppose the teaching of the Lord.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we be Your disciples; may we be blind to the wisdom of the world.  Help us to know the difference between prideful philosophies, and beneficial information; that we may always choose what is good and reject what is evil.  Teach us, instruct us, and make us willing to learn.  We admit that we are ignorant, and in humility we ask You to lead us.  We desire to have childlike faith; may we trust You completely, and may we know the blessings of Your eternal wisdom.  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!

Gratitude

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now it happened as he went to Jerusalem that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  So when he saw them, he said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the preists.”  And so it was that as they went they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks.  And he was a Samaritan.  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Arise, go your way.  Your faith has made you well” (Mathew 17: 11 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Leprosy is a debilitating bacterial disease that has existed for thousands of years; it causes fingers, toes, and other extremities to rot away, horribly disfiguring its victims.  Despite modern treatments, Leprosy remains highly contagious.  As a result, the infected have been ostracized since the days of Christ; lepers were forced in to isolated colonies outside of the cities.  When traveling, they were required to maintain great distances between themselves and the healthy; when entering crowded areas, they were obligated to yell out, “unclean, unclean,” as a warning for others to keep a safe distance.  The lepers who approached Jesus stood “afar off;” and pleaded with him to heal them.  Although nine of the lepers were Jewish, one leper was a Samaritan (The Jews considered Samaritans half breads; because when Alexander the great conquered Israel hundreds of years earlier, he settled a portion of the land (known as Samaria) with Greek citizens and retired soldiers; they mingled with the Jewish people, but were unable to completely adopt Hebrew customs and traditions.  The Samaritans were so hated that many Jews would travel around Samaria when journeying to Jerusalem; the only people more hated than Samaritans were lepers.)  Jesus ordered the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests (In Jewish society, the priests were charged with diagnosing leprosy; if someone was healed, the priests had to examine them before they could return home to their families.)  As they journeyed, all ten lepers were outwardly healed; but only one was inwardly healed.  The dirty Samaritan, filled with gratitude, returned to praise and honor Jesus Christ.

                There was once a prominent doctor who was a devoted golfer.  His long time caddy had a club foot (a deformity in which the foot bends inward, making it difficult to walk.)  ‘Doc Gordon,’ as he was known, often traveled south for the winters to continue his golf game.  One winter, he decided to take his caddy with him; during their trip, the doctor operated on the man’s foot and he was made completely whole.  Soon after they returned, the doctor became ill and passed away.  One day, the caddy was carrying another member’s bag; at every hole he stopped to pluck a flower, until eventually he had gathered a very beautiful bouquet.  The member was curious and asked the caddy about his new girlfriend.  He replied, “Oh no, I don’t have a girlfriend.  These are for Doctor Gordon.  I go to his grave twice a week and place these flowers there.”  Over his lifetime, Doctor Gordon had helped thousands of sick people; he had corrected many physical ailments, and prolonged the lives of numerous individuals.  Yet, only one patient was truly thankful; the young caddy continued to praise and honor his deceased friend and benefactor because his heart was filled with gratitude (This illustration was a parable taken from another source; whether the characters were real, is not certain.)

                Jesus Christ has healed and given life to so many people, but only those whose gratitude is a daily expression, have truly experienced a miracle.  There are a number of ways to show your gratitude for God; prayers of thanksgiving; testifying of His greatness; gathering together with other believers; worship and singing; acts of love on His behalf; service work; care giving; charity, etc.  Have you received the gift of healing and eternal life?  Gratitude is a fruit of true salvation; those who understand the value of what they have been given, honor and praise God every day (Note:  If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, please contact us and we can discuss how you can do that today.)

                “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You; we honor You; and we thank You for our salvation.  We are unworthy servants, and yet You love us.  Thank You for healing us and protecting us; thank you for Your kindness and provision.  You are truly an awesome and amazing God.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude; may we be compelled to speak to others of Your greatness, and may we be filled with Your Holy Spirit.  We love You Father, and we honor You; and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

A true servant

JESUS SPEAKING

                But Jesus called them to himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the gentile’s lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 42 – 45.)

 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Every society (from the fall of creation, until the present day) has been fueled by the pursuit of power and authority.  All social structures are shaped like a staircase that narrows near the top.  The climb begins in early childhood.  With age, those who secure positions of influence are treated with great respect.  Those who do not rise to the top, settle near the bottom; the strong rule, and the weak become servants.  Yet Jesus Christ, the King of Kings was not born in a palace; he was born on the dirty floor of a manger.  A life begun in humility, was lived in like manner; the prince of peace served the poor, and embraced the unworthy.  He turned an ‘upside down world’, ‘right side up.’  To pursue Christ is to forsake the pursuit of power and authority.  Those who desire to follow the Son of God must move down the social ladder in search of the lowest position.  A disciple is greatest when he is the least; he is the most alive when he is dead; he only rules when he truly serves.

                India (one of the largest nations in the world) is founded on the teachings of Hinduism.  Social order is a centralized feature of the Hindu Religion (as is the belief in reincarnation.)  They believe in a divine hierarchy; a caste system in which a person’s position is the result of their prior life.  When an individual dies they are immediately reborn; the deeds of their past life dictate their present social standing.  Those who were good are born in to one of the four respectable classes (the top class being comprised of kings, warriors, and rulers.)  However, those who were evil in a previous life are born in to a class known as the ‘untouchables.’  This group is poor, plagued with sickness, and most have historically only been able to hold menial jobs (such as the removal of dead bodies.)  [Note: Some recognize more than just five classes.]  This principle of Karma, is well known by every Hindu; bad Karma needs to be worked off; by suffering miserably in this life, one can pay for the sins of their past life; through anguish, every ‘untouchable’ can hope for a better life when they die.  Therefore, in India, helping the needy and the poor is often seen as interfering with their karma (to help relieve suffering, can actually prolong it.)  Therefore there is a permanent underclass; a group of people the world has forsaken.  Although most of mankind has forgotten about these people, God has not.  In the 1950’s, a Catholic Nun named Mother Theresa was led by the Lord to begin caring for lepers in India; she established a colony, and made a place for them to call home.  She also reached out to the abandoned orphans, the disabled, and the sick.  From that time until her death in 1997, she served the poorest, weakest, and most insignificant people, the world around.  When she received the Nobel Peace prize, she said, “I am grateful to receive (the Nobel) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless…the crippled… the blind…the lepers, (and) all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society; people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

                Mother Theresa followed Christ, and it led her in to the slums of Calcutta.  Jesus has asked nothing less of every believer.  Service is a requirement.  Whether at work, school, the coffee shop, the grocery store, or even at home, disciples are servants.  A true servant seeks opportunities to help others.  The way up is down.  Humble yourself, and allow God to use you; lowliness leads to honor, and humility is the path to everlasting life.  Those who serve others, serve the true and living God.  Deny yourself; give to the needy; embrace the outcast; love those who have been abandoned; prefer others, and God will one day raise you up to a place of eternal honor.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desperately desire to be lowly.  Help us to serve others with zeal.  Please provide us with opportunities to give of our time, resources, and knowledge.  Grant us humility, that we may give to those in need; may we love those who feel unloved.  We aspire to be great servants; may we deny ourselves to honor and prefer others; and may our hearts be filled with joy as we serve You and our fellows.  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.”  God bless all of you.

Heed the warning

JESUS SPEAKING

                And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, he began to say, “This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation […] The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed one greater than Jonah is here”  (Luke 11: 29 – 30, 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The city of Nineveh was one of the largest cities in the ancient world (some say that it took three days to walk through.)  Nineveh was not only immense, it was completely evil.  As the center of the Assyrian empire, it’s cruelty and perversion were unrivaled.  [Warning:  The information you are about to hear is disturbing.]  The Assyrians rejected the one true God and practiced unspeakable acts of immorality.  They impaled their victims, and cut off their hands, noses, and ears.  They poked out the eyes of their enemies; and tore out their tongues.  Many who were conquered were flayed alive (they had their skin cut off); the skins were hung from the walls of their cities.  Thousands of captured children were burned alive.  They dismembered bodies and fed them to the dogs and pigs.  They forced many enemies to grind up the bones of their dead ancestors.  They severed the heads of whole populations and fixed them to the ends of poles.  They constructed giant towers made out of human heads; often after a conquest, the rulers would bring back the heads of their victims and hang them on the trees around the city as decoration.  Uncovered ruins reveal that Assyrian rulers proudly displayed scenes of torture on their palace walls; for them, inflicting pain was delightful.  When they weren’t killing their captives, they were humiliating them; the Assyrians often ran hooks and chains through the lips of their captives and treated them like dogs.  Corruption was a foundation of their society; their religious practices included prostitution and child sacrifice.  Robbery and theft in Nineveh were commonplace.  The city had become so wicked that God decided to destroy it.  Yet God in His mercy sent them a prophet named Jonah; his message was ‘repent or be destroyed.’  (Jonah desired to see Nineveh decimated; so he refused to follow God’s command.  However, after suffering hardship, he made his way to the Assyrian city as God had directed him.)  As Jonah angrily marched in to the city, he showed no signs or wonders; nor did he perform any miracles; he simply said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”  The evil and wicked people of Nineveh repented (they began to weep and mourn.)  The citizens (including the king and his household) started to fast and pray for forgiveness; because of their response, the Ninevites avoided destruction.  Jesus, like Jonah, came to an evil world and preached an eternal message of repentance and salvation.  The Ninevites had listened to Jonah the prophet; yet Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) was rejected by most Jews and gentiles who heard him speak.  Instead of hearing him, they demanded a sign.  Christ’s message has echoed through every generation.  On the final Day of Judgment, those who have heeded the warning and repented will be forgiven.  Those who have denied Christ will be destroyed.

                The ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh lay within the borders of modern day Iraq.  From 1979 until 2003, the Iraqi people were ruled over by a brutal dictator named Saddam Hussein.  Like the leaders of the ancient Assyrian Empire, Saddam’s cruelty was excessive.  Shortly after taking power, he convened an assembly of leaders and proceeded to read off a list of 68 names; people he believed were disloyal; they were arrested and led away; 22 were executed by other council members.  From 1986-1988, Mr. Hussein attacked 3.5 million Kurdish residents living in Northern Iraq.  Using the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed, he justified the destruction of tens of thousands of homes; entire villages were destroyed.  He massacred an upwards of 2 million people; another 17,000 Kurds went missing; the attacking troops were informed that it was legal to claim property from the deceased (which included the widows who were left behind.)  In another incident Saddam used chemical weapons to kill and injure nearly 10,000 people living in an area populated by civilians (men, women, and children lay dead in the streets.)  He launched a war against Iran that claimed the lives of nearly a million people.  His methods of interrogation and torture were infamous (he even tortured one of his own sons.)  Throughout his time as dictator he continually attempted to develop nuclear weapons.  The United Nations, fearing he would accomplish his goal, demanded he allow U.N. weapons inspectors to enter his country.  However, in 1998, he kicked the inspectors out.  The U.N. warned him that if he did not allow the inspectors to return “serious consequences” would result.  Saddam defied numerous international resolutions (warnings); his refusal to heed these warnings led to a full scale invasion of Iraq in 2003.  During the campaign Saddam Hussein was captured and imprisoned.  In 2006, after being found guilty of war crimes, he was executed.  Before being hung, it’s feasible to assume that he regretted not complying with the U.N.’s demands.

                God has given mankind numerous warnings.  The gospel has gone out to every nation; compliance is necessary to avoid destruction.  Jesus has delivered a wonderful message to an evil world. Although most have never tortured, murdered, or beheaded anyone, everyone is a sinner; and every sinner, no matter how evil, can repent and be completely forgiven.  Those who heed the warnings and turn away from sin (adultery, idolatry, fornication, etc.) and embrace Jesus Christ will inherit eternal life.  Those who hear God’s message and refuse to comply will experience everlasting destruction.  His words are all that are needed; no sign or miracle can ever produce true faith.  Listen to the Lord; hear him; trust him; follow him, and you will be blessed.  He will lead you in to eternal peace; he will provide you with unending love; and you will experience the gift of everlasting life.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You help us to heed Your warning.  May we turn away from our sins, and turn toward You.  May our faith be rooted in Your words.  We desire to be fully committed to You Father; strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, and deliver us from evil.  We thank You for Your forgiveness; may Your mercy be with us forever.  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.

Giving away your wealth

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12: 32-34.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus commanded his followers to sell their earthly possessions and use the profits to help those in need.  For each sacrifice, he promised a future reward held for them in God’s eternal kingdom.  Although many amass great amounts of excess wealth, all possessions are impermanent; nothing tangible is of any eternal value.  Banks fail, thieves steal, and death is inevitable.  No living person can carry possessions from this life to the next; everything is left behind. Yet, for those who have heeded the command of Christ, far greater treasures await; no compassionate contribution, selfless act, or sacrificial donation is ever lost.  The Lord will credit those who have made charity ‘the backbone’ of their existence.  Death cannot take from the unselfish, what remains within the living God.  He is a divine vault that contains an eternal treasure.  In Him, every believer who has sacrificed their belongings will inherit the true riches of eternal life [Note:  Some things are necessary for living; if you own a home, God is not necessarily asking you to sell it.  If you own two homes, the second one is more than you need; perhaps you can sell it and use the money to help others (needs vary based on culture and circumstance.)]

                When Solomon succeeded his Father David as king, the Nation of Israel was at its Zenith.  King Solomon was one of the wealthiest men who has ever lived.  Over the span of 40 years as king he earned nearly 40 billion dollars worth of Gold (based on one estimate.)  He also acquired 700 wives and three hundred concubines.  He sat on a large mechanical throne covered in gold figures; which was allegedly carried around with him wherever he went.  His monumental building projects astonished onlookers for generations.  He constructed the temple in Jerusalem (one of the largest buildings ever created in the ancient world.)  His palace took 13 years to build and all of his drinking vessels were made of pure gold.  He owned many exotic animals and bread thousands of horses.  He owned 1,400 chariots and employed 12,000 horsemen.  Foreign rulers, the world over, traveled to his Kingdom to marvel at its prosperity.  The bible records that Solomon “made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones.”  With so much wealth and power, did Solomon live a satisfying life?  The answer can be found in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He wrote this book near the end of his life; as he looked back upon his actions and accomplishments, he expressed extreme regret.  He concluded that the large buildings, the Gold and silver, the women, the exotic food, the fine clothes, and the abundant possessions were all meaningless.  He wrote “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, by increase […] there is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt […] as he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand […] just exactly as he came, so shall he go.”  As death approached, King Solomon had finally discovered the true value of wealth; homes are unimportant, bank accounts are trivial, and fine clothes are insignificant; but generosity lasts forever. 

                Jesus Christ continually reminds the world of the truth that Solomon discovered so many years ago; wealth is only valuable when it is used to bless others.  Those who have utilized their excesses to help the poor are in fact wealthier than the richest man who has ever lived.  For when death arrives, the wealthy man will have nothing, but the faithful believer will inherit true riches; everlasting possessions that cannot be taken away.  Your wealth serves no purpose, unless it serves His purpose.  The things you have that are not being used, can be used to glorify God and to help others.  Search your closets; search your bank accounts; search your hearts; and give your wealth away.  Do this, and you will one day acquire riches far greater than you could have ever imagined.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You give us the strength and the courage to use our wealth for Your purposes.  May our excesses be given over to help those in need.  Give us opportunities to be instruments of kindness; may we abandon ourselves to You.  May our lives be lived in sacrifice, and self-denial; and may we one day inherit the true riches of Your Glorious 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.

True faith must grow

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)  ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had no intentions of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth (contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him.)  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and distant return.  Parables (short stories) forced the listeners to think; through contemplation, they could find the deeper spiritual truth.  Every story had characters, and every character represented a real life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went in to a far country to become king symbolized Jesus, who ascended in to heaven (and now reigns with divine authority.)  He too, like the nobleman, promised to return.  The rebellious citizens, who hated the nobleman, exemplified all those who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples (followers.)  In the parable, he gave them each a different amount of money.  The money, likely represents the measure of faith Christ has given every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In our illustration there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and made great efforts to spread the gospel.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  The unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of all his possessions and numbered with the rebels.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; but Jesus sternly expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

                The surface of the earth is clothed in garment of green.  There are thousands of different kinds of trees and everyone is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it; that tree is the mighty redwood;  these behemoth’s can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  The tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt (approximately 1,500 years before Jesus was born) this little redwood was just beginning to sprout.  These trees are so large, it can be difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  Redwood seeds are just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow to be large, some remain small, but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men by the hands of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

                Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our king returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given him.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of your great king and mighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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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