Archive for October, 2011

Tragedies can be blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  Imust work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9: 1–7.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century it was commonly believed that all deformity and dysfunction was the result of sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not by sin, but by the will of God.  In healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic are designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, frequently they are the greatest blessings we will ever know.

                In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when a 14 foot tiger shark attacked her.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  She nearly bled to death before being rushed to the hospital.  Bethany had been one of the top competitive junior surfers in the world prior to her injury.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She was determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water and began training nearly 3 weeks after her accident.  She started with a long board (making it easier to paddle.)  She then moved to a smaller board, and then to a smaller board; until finally, she was once again surfing on a short board.  Because Bethany refused to quit she has gone on to place in and win many of the world’s top female surf competitions.  Her experience has become world famous; she has received thousands of letters and numerous awards; she has appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggle and victory (her story has recently been made in to a major motion picture entitled “Soul Surfer.”)  Throughout her ordeal, Bethany has remained an outspoken Christian.  She thanks Jesus Christ for her strength, her courage, and her triumph.  Was losing her arm God’s will?  Yes.  What appeared to be a tragedy, has become the greatest blessing she has ever known.  With two arms she would have likely won some surf competitions (she might have even made it on to the cover of a surf magazine.)  Yet with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the whole world.  She is a symbol of faith and a living example of God’s ability to take the broken and make them whole again.

                Is there anything in your life that you struggle with; something that seems tragic; a source of shame or pain?  Take another look; you may find a wonderful victory hidden within a great calamity.  Seek the Lord, and He will strengthen you and lift you up.  Lean on God, and let Him use you; He will take your weaknesses and make them your strengths.  When He transforms your life, remember to give Him the credit He deserves.  Utilize God’s power and have faith; never give up; face your fears; and many will see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to our strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and shortcomings; through the power of Your Holy Spirit may we all be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  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 Law of Love

JESUS SPEAKING

                At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath.  And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”  But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?” (Mathew Chapter 12: 1-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                God created the universe in six days.  On the seventh day He rested.  Mankind was commanded to follow His example.  Every seventh day was a day of rest; a day on which no work was to be done; a day of fellowship with family and friends; a time to pray and remember the blessings of God.  During the time of Christ, the religious leaders were Zealot’s.  They believed it was their duty to enforce God’s laws; they were blinded by their rigid traditionalism, and unable to see the numerous situations that warranted breaking the fourth commandment (the Sabbath law) — for example, if a man’s donkey fell in to a well on the Sabbath, he was required to work to save it’s life (to allow the animal to die would be evil.)  They accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath; he responded by quoting an Old Testament scripture.  When King Saul sought to kill David, David fled with a handful of soldiers.  Wearied and hungry, David and his companions entered a temple and ate the showbread from the altar (a bread strictly reserved for the priests.)  To survive he did what was not lawful; yet God did not condemn him.  Providing for those in need is the greatest of all of the commandments; it supersedes every other law.

                One day a woman asked me an important question.  She said, “I was recently offered a part-time job working on Saturday and Sunday.  I really need the money, but I don’t want to break the Sabbath by working.  What should I do?”  I asked her if the job was necessary for her to survival.  She indicated that the additional income was needed to pay her rent and to buy food.  I told her that when David was hungry he broke the law and ate the showbread from the Altar.  God didn’t fault him for doing what was necessary to survive; he would not fault her either.  In unique circumstances, breaking the law is necessary to fulfill the law of love.  Unfortunately there are still some who refuse to see any divine exceptions.  God commanded his followers to refrain from drinking blood.  The blood from every animal needed to be drained before it could be butchered.  Today, in order to save lives, it is possible to perform blood transfusions.  One religious organization known as the J-hova’s witnesses, have adamantly opposed these procedures; believing them to be a direct violation of God’s law to refrain from consuming blood; as a result, many of their followers have needlessly died.  Human need and the preservation of life are God’s greatest concerns [Warning:  God does not condone situational ethics.  Stealing is always wrong; as is laziness and adultery; there is never a situation where drunkenness is necessary; nor will circumstances ever require fornication, lewdness, or idolatry.]

                The Lord is a compassionate and understanding Father; He is the giver of divine wisdom and discernment.  Although His laws are supreme and unflinching, His will is not always rigid and legalistic.  Extreme human need often necessitates exceptions; wisdom concerning such times, can only come from God.  We must never presume to know His heart; instead we must continually pray for direction.  May we always seek His will in every situation; may compassion be our guide and understanding our best friend; and may we never forget that the law of love is the greatest law of all.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask for Your wisdom.  Give us understanding, and fill our hearts with kindness.  Your laws are without error; yet we realize that You desire to provide for those in need; in so doing, You are not overly zealous; You make exceptions where they are needed.  May we recognize these circumstances as we minister to others.  Without condoning evil, may we reveal Your grace and compassion to the world.  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.

A common question?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates me hates my Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my father” (John 15: 22 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ preached throughout Israel for up to three years before being crucified.  He preached in the cities; in the wilderness; in the temple; in homes and on street corners; he preached to every capable Israelite (He was so famous that he needed to travel by boat to avoid being thronged by the crowds.)  Still, despite seeing the miracles and hearing God’s message of repentance and forgiveness, many willingly embraced ignorance (and refused to listen); while others who did listen rejected Him entirely (In this scripture, Jesus implies that involuntary ignorance is an excuse; those who were not made aware of the message are not under condemnation.) 

                In my years of evangelism, I have interacted with many skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, who often use a common question to challenge God’s perfect justice: “If you can’t get to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ; what about the child in Africa who dies without ever having heard the gospel?  Are they going to go to hell?”  The answer is no.  God does not condemn the naive.  Those who are ignorant are innocent; yet those who have heard “have no excuse for their sin.”  (In the United States it is hard to believe that a single person has not heard the gospel.)  Many are willingly ignorant because they don’t want to change; they refuse to open a bible or enter a church believing that by not rejecting or accepting Jesus they will avoid condemnation.  Unfortunately voluntary ignorance is no excuse (those who enter hell have no one blame but themselves.)

                The Followers of Jesus Christ continue to preach the gospel.  Some accept him; some deny him; and others simply refuse to investigate.  God forgives the truly naïve, but he condemns the willingly ignorant.  There are very few places on the earth where Jesus Christ has yet to be preached.  Perhaps some isolated tribe in the Amazon; maybe some young children in a Hindu household; there are definitely many infants who tragically pass away who aren’t old enough to accept salvation.  God is just and holy; He commits no evil; and it would be evil to condemn the truly ignorant to eternal damnation.  No matter how strange or perplexing the question might be, remember, God’s word provides the answer.  Read His word and He will prepare you to speak on His behalf.  Dive in to scripture and you will be equipped.  Meditate upon His precepts and you will be His messenger; and He will use you to preach to lost; to bring hope to the hopeless; and to grant eternal life to those who are dying in sin.  Through you, many may come to know His goodness, His mercy, and His love.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize Your perfect justice.  We acknowledge that You do no evil.  May we be equipped to answer those who seek to impugn your righteousness.  Empower us through Your Holy Spirit; may we be bold; may we illuminate darkened minds, and preach the gospel to those who are ignorant.  May we be Your messengers in this place; may we deliver the good news to those who are afar off.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.          

God is your friend

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15: 14 – 15.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                After eating the Passover feast, the Lord said farewell to his closest companions.  In a long discourse (filled with emotion and love) Jesus revealed God’s complete plan to the disciples.  During this address, those who had called him Master were urged to consider him a ‘friend.’  The term ‘friend’ implied a deeper, more intimate relationship.  In ancient times, masters and servants were never equals; they weren’t partners; and they certainly were never friends; their positions prevented them from close personal fellowship.  In order to preserve authority and respect, the master had to maintain a safe distance (as “familiarity breeds disrespect.”)  Yet the ‘King of Kings’ (Jesus) shattered the barriers that hindered true intimacy.  The disciples became his equals; no longer was he just their Lord and master; he became their brother; their closest companion; and their greatest friend.

                At the age of 19, I worked as a guard and a counselor in a minimum security juvenile facility.  My role was that of a disciplinarian.  Often, when a child misbehaved, we had to intervene and physically restrain them.  The staff was given a great deal of power and authority.  Although we interacted with the children in positive ways, we had to maintain a professional distance.  Too much intimacy caused them to lose respect for us and our positions.  If they came to believe we were their equals, they would question and disobey our commands.  Those who falsely see God as an equal lose respect for Him.  Fear of God is good; those who fear Him are aware of his power and authority.   We read in Proverbs, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  In turn, God sent His Son, so that all could know Him as a ‘friend’ as well as a Father.  [Jesus also made all things known to his disciples—For three years I worked in sales; my job was to sell; the sales reps were rarely informed of the reasons, motives, or future goals of the company.  We were told only what we needed to know and were seldom included in the decision making process.  Unlike my former bosses, our present Lord has withheld nothing; in his final discourse, the disciples became his equals; he informed them of his immanent crucifixion; his resurrection, ascension, and eventual return.  He revealed the purpose of his death; he foretold of their future hardships; he even informed them of the impending arrival of the Holy Spirit (read the bible and you too can know God’s complete plan.)]

                God must always be honored and respected; (He is our master and we are His servants) in turn, there is a distance between God and man.  In His divine wisdom, He chose to use His only Son to draw near to all people.  Jesus Christ is God’s gift to mankind.  He is God in a form we need not fear; we need only approach Him in love; we are free to speak to Him; to fellowship with Him; and to be in communion with Him.  He is more than our teacher, our master, and our shepherd; he is our brother; he is our closest companion; he is our best friend.  Would you like to know God?  If you seek closeness with God embrace Jesus Christ and he will comfort you and give you peace; look to the Son of God and you will know his Father.  Invite him in to your heart and he will teach you all things; and “you will know the truth; and the truth shall make you free.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we love You, and we thank You for Your son.  We desire to draw near to him; may every obstacle be removed, and every barrier destroyed.  May he be our brother, our companion, and our friend.  May we confide in You Lord; may we look to You for direction, for love, and for comfort.  We love You Father; we love You Jesus; we praise You and we thank You; and we ask all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.   

Opposing Evil

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this […] You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you desire to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8: 39, 44 – 45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus opposed the religious leaders with great zeal; they claimed to be descendents of Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people.  However, Abraham was a righteous man; a man who looked forward to the coming of the messiah; yet as Jesus stood before them, they sought to kill him.  They did not know God; instead they served Satan (a fallen angel who continually opposes God.)  Lucifer has an influence in every act of rape, murder, incest, theft, divorce, drunkenness, and dishonesty (to name a few.)  God’s truth is a light that exposes Satan’s lies.  Those who serve the ‘son of perdition’ will stop at nothing to extinguish God’s divine illumination, so they can continue in sin without remorse.  Where ever God is not, evil exists in abundance. 

                Adolf Hitler orchestrated one of the largest mass murders in world history.  He rounded up and killed nearly 6 million Jews.  He rejected God and the bible.  He avidly believed in the evolutionary teachings of Charles Darwin (his teachings attempted to explain creation by means of naturalistic processes—if life could arise and evolve on its own, then a divine creator would no longer be necessary.)  To Adolf Hitler, human beings were nothing more than animals; animals that could be enhanced through proper breeding.  As a believer in ‘survival of the fittest’ (an evolutionary term), Hitler assumed some human beings were less advanced than others.  In turn, he sought to create a master race by systematically destroying the unfit; before his campaign of ethnic cleansing, he killed the elderly, the deformed, and the disabled.  When the Godly stood up to oppose him, he killed and imprisoned them as well.  After he invaded Poland he killed nearly 3 million Christians and Catholics.  He also killed 3,000 church clergy members; another 2,600 Catholic priests were murdered throughout Europe.  He didn’t stop there; his goal wasn’t to control the churches, but to destroy them.  Following his death, the truth about his design to obliterate Christianity after the war became known.  Jesus Christ stood in the way of his twisted ideology; many disciples stood up and spoke the truth; they testified of his evil deeds.  Hitler (much like the Pharisees who opposed the Lord) had to remove the light of Christ before he could practice his atrocities uninhibited.  [As believers, we are obligated to resist what is evil; to speak the truth and to oppose the wicked.  One day in a crowded coffee shop, I heard a young man badgering another customer who was Asian (the man had done nothing to warrant this aggression.)  As the aggressor threatened the Asian man, he called him ‘slanty-eyed.’  I yelled across the coffee shop, “I think it’s time for you to take off buddy.”  He left the store, but then returned; he approached me and said, “Who said that to me.”  I said, “I did.  Do you think its right for you to be using racial slurs toward that man?”  Immediately the man became convicted and apologized to me.  I said, “Don’t apologize to me; apologize to that man over there.”  Surprisingly he agreed; he walked over to the man, shook his hand and apologized.  He then left the store.  A woman who had been listening to the conversation said, “Thank you.”  I told her I was a Christian, and said, “If I don’t oppose evil then I become evil myself.”]

                Those who follow God oppose evil; no matter the cost.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we boldly speak the truth (as Christ has taught us.)  Speaking the truth may not be popular; we may be excluded, hated, or even persecuted by those who seek to sin without conviction.  Satan will stop at nothing to see man disobey God.  Are you willing to stand up for what is right?  Are you able to be a light in the darkness?  Are you prepared to preach the truth in a world that prefers lies?  Speak the truth, and God will bless you.  Stand firm, and He will strengthen you.  Allow the light of Christ to shine through you, and you will “dwell in the house of the Lord, Forever.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to oppose what is evil and to expose the works of Satan.  Give us the strength and the courage to preach the truth in a world that prefers lies.  May we be a light in dark places.  May we not fear the reprisals of man; may we always seek to do Your will; no matter what the cost.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of the these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Giving God the Glory

JESUS SPEAKING

                ‘Now around the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.  And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this man know letters, having never studied?”  Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not my own, but His who sent me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority.  He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7: 14-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The educated men who heard Jesus were astonished at his perfect knowledge of scripture.  Unlike them, he did not attend a notable Hebrew school; nor did he sit at the feet of a prominent rabbi; his knowledge and wisdom came from God (not man.)  For their extensive learning, the Jewish scholars demanded admiration and praise; Jesus however, sought to honor God.  To seek glory is to embrace unrighteousness; to glorify God and his only Son is to live rightly.  One man, who thoroughly understood this, was John the Baptist; when Jesus began baptizing people in the Jordan river, John’s followers became concerned; they said, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, he is baptizing, and all are coming to him.”  John replied, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven […] he must increase, and I must decrease.”  John was devoid of selfish pride; he humbled himself and sought only to glorify the Son of God (the savior of the world.)

                To glorify Jesus Christ, one must embrace humility.  God does not share praise with those who serve him.  A disciple’s benevolent acts are the possessions of God.  Every work of love is done in the name of Jesus (not in the name of Thomas, Danny, Timothy, or Rhonda.)  The savior has said, “For whoever gives you a cold cup of water in my name […] he will by no means lose his reward.”  When we exercise charity; when we give; when we love; the Lord obtains the credit.  Upon receiving salvation I made great efforts to glorify God.  Whether buying a sandwich for a homeless person, or giving to someone in need; each act was accompanied with a statement; “This is from Jesus Christ.”  At Christmas time the presents I gave were labeled, to: ‘blank’, from: ‘Jesus Christ.’  I began signing my oil painting with the initials ‘JC’ instead of ‘JP.’  I deleted my photos from Facebook, and replaced them with pictures of Jesus (also, I am now committed to posting only scriptures in my status update section; instead of my own thoughts.)  God has used me to start a ministry called ‘Jesus Speaks;’ a ministry solely devoted to the teachings of His Son.  In nearly every area of my life, He has increased and I have decreased.  (Shortly after my conversion I frequently visited an orphanage in Mexico.  On one occasion, as our missionary group waited to cross back over in to the United States, a man approached our van begging for money; I handed him some cash and told him, “this is from Jesus.”  Over a year and a half later, I was browsing in the church bookstore when I bumped in to a woman who had been in the van when I had given the man the money.  The incident had made an impression on her, and she told me that at the time she didn’t understand why I said that (she even implied that it seemed strange.)  As she continued, she told me that she had just heard a lesson about doing things in God’s name; it reminded her of what I had done; she finally realized that I was simply attempting to give God the glory.

                Although Jesus Christ reigns in heaven, his deeds continue on earth.  He performs his miracles through his disciples.  Those who desire glory will take credit for God’s works.  Trustworthy servants however, render to God the praise and honor He deserves.  To glorify God we must humble ourselves.  He must increase, and we must decrease.  Are you willing to forgo admiration so that God may receive what is His?  Will you lift his words up above your own?  Are you able to live in the name of Christ; to give in the name of Christ; and to love in the name of Christ?  May you decrease, and may He increase; may you die so that He may live; give God the glory, and He will provide you with immeasurable joy and everlasting peace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may You increase as we decrease.  May we let go of our selfish need to be praised; that You may receive the credit for the good works that You are accomplishing in us, and through us.  May we be vessels of Your love and mercy.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Lord that we might be pleasing to You at all times.  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.

Be filled with the light of God

JESUS SPEAKING

                “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” (Luke 11:  33-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Most ancient lamps were round, hollow clay containers filled with oil.  One end of the wick was plunged in to the oil; the protruding end was lit.  Although the visible wick seemed to be the source of the light, it was not; the true source was the oil hidden within the lamp.  Every human being is a lamp; a vessel; a hollow container that is meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Much like the flaming wick, the light from within man, pours out of the eyes (for all the world to see.)  Those who observe the radiance of Christ are drawn toward it; God’s greatest desire is for others to receive His Spirit, that they might be transformed and become vessels of His light to all those who dwell in darkness.

                As a new Christian I remember that some believers eyes were unique; looking in to them was like looking in to crystal clear water; there were no waves; there was no turmoil; just a supernatural purity and peace (Their eyes weren’t shifty; they blinked less, and always maintained eye contact when talking.)  However, some people’s eyes were filled with darkness.  I knew one man who was engaging in perversion; his eyes were dull, and covered in a yellowish film; even the hair and the skin on his face appeared drab (his condition was not biological, but spiritual.)  As he began to grow closer to God, that yellowish film began to fade away; his eyes began to clear; and his face began to warm.  (When a person has a seizure, or suffers a concussion, their eyes go blank and they become unresponsive; the lights go out; it is as if the person is no longer there.  The eyes of those who walk in darkness are empty.  They may live, work, have children, and even pay taxes, but they are not truly alive; they are hollow on the inside; they are dead; and only Christ can breathe life into them.

                Today, many are overflowing with the Spirit of God and many are not.  How can non-believers can be filled (and believers grow closer to the Lord?)  They can ask God daily for His Holy Spirit.  They can take time to pray and to speak with God.  Reading the bible is another act that produces faithfulness.  Also, practicing the teachings of Christ will increase spiritual growth.  Every act of selflessness, charity, outreach, and love increases our intimacy with God.  As God continues to fill us, others will see something different in our eyes.  They will see a peace, clarity, purity, and a genuine hope that only the children of God possess.  May God fill you with His Holy Spirit, and may you be a light to others in this dark world.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we lift You up; You are an awesome and mighty God; full of grace, peace, and mercy.  Push the darkness out of our hearts, and fill us to overflowing with Your light.  Help us to have eyes that are beacons of hope to others; eyes through which You can draw the lost to Yourself and to Your Son.  May our eyes reveal all of Your glory, and all of Your goodness.  We love You Lord, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”