Archive for November, 2011

Pornography?

JESUS SPEAKING

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Mathew 5: 27 – 28.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Pornography was as prevalent in ancient times as it is today.  Archeologists have uncovered rooms in many Roman homes, set apart for sexual debauchery (the walls and ceilings of these rooms were lined with images of people in erotic positions.)  Scholars have also discovered tens of thousands of sensual stone carvings; men and women, naked, exposed, and objectified; many small enough to be carried from place to place (likely an ancient form of mobile pornography.)  Similar sexually explicit images and carvings can be found in every culture, and in every generation; India, Asia, Egypt, Peru, and even Europe.  Despite the popularity of pornography, it is not profitable, proper, or permissible.  Every lingering stare and intense gaze has consequences.  To lust for someone who is not a husband or wife, whether naked or dressed, on the television or on the computer, in secret or in person is a sinful behavior.  Improper lust separates an individual from God, and is therefore a very serious and damaging activity (Note:  Proper lust is good; to lust for a God given companion is encouraged by The Lord; to stare at and be aroused by a husband or wife is an integral part of a healthy marriage.)

Improper lust has some very grave consequences.  ‘At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said the Internet played a significant role in the divorces in the past year; with excessive interest in online pornography contributing to more than half such cases.’  Also, ‘nearly 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation.’  Despite God’s command to refrain from indulging in pornography, many still seek to justify their disobedience; ‘29% of professing born again Christian adults in the U.S. feel it is morally acceptable to view movies with explicit sexual behavior.’  No amount of rationalization will ever make pornography acceptable.  To view erotic materials is to transgress against God Himself.  To watch others engage in sex acts is to join in with them.  For those who are married it is adultery, and for those who are single it is fornication.

Improper lust and pornography are spiritually, mentally, and morally debilitating.  They separate the believer from God; they destroy marriages and rip apart families; they promote promiscuity, lewdness, and idolatry.  They cause men and women to objectify one another; they encourage vice and exploitation (especially exploitation of children: “there are currently 20,000 images of child pornography posted on the web each week.”)  Pornography is a pathway that leads to increased evil.  According to Ted Bundy (one of the most notorious serial murderers in U.S. history) pornography eventually led him to commit multiple acts of rape and murder.  Today, we have a choice; do we engage in those things that God has condemned?  Or do we disobey our Lord and continue in sin?  Trust in Jesus Christ and turn away the lust of the flesh and you will know true fellowship with God [Note:  If you are struggling with lust and pornography, and desire to make a change, there are often accountability groups at your local church that can be of great benefit.  The quickest way to deal with any sin is to bring it in to the open; sharing your burdens with others can help you to overcome them.]

“Lord Heavenly Father, we seek clean hearts and proper minds.  Remove the lust from our hearts.  If we struggle with pornography, or any other sexual sin, we ask that You empower us to overcome them, that we may once again know true purity and holiness.  Father without You we can do nothing; we ask that our increased wholesomeness be a work of Your hands; that through our victory, You may be glorified.  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.

Feeling lonely?

JESUS SPEAKING

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16: 31 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Jesus, knowing that he would soon be detained and crucified, informed his disciples that they would abandon him in his time of greatest need.  Sure enough, upon being arrested, his closest friends fled in terror; preferring self preservation over fearless fidelity.  In solitude he endured a gruesome ordeal; being interrogated, beaten, flogged, spit upon, and mocked; he was pierced by thorns, by a spear, and by nails.  Weakened and maimed, he struggled to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem (and through the angry mobs who hurled insults at him.)  Half naked and covered in blood, the Son of God finally reached his destination.  At mount Calvary he was raised up under the hot sun to experience a slow grueling death by exposure, dehydration, and suffocation.  Jesus Christ endured this pain willingly; but he did not endure it alone; for God was with him.  He was strengthened, consoled, and comforted by our loving Father.  We, like Jesus will struggle through painful trials.  Life is filled with obstacles and challenges.  Yet those whom God has chosen will never struggle in isolation.  The elect will always have a perpetual helper; an eternal friend; and a constant companion.

Many years ago I experienced a period of extreme suffering; I lived a life of selfishness and depravity.  I actively abused drugs, my body, and other people.  In a downward spiral of self-destruction, I managed to push away nearly every human being.  I lived alone in an apartment.  Isolated from the world and plagued with paranoia, I struggled to survive (using drugs in excess, I often stayed awake for weeks on end.)  One dark day, in the depths of my addiction, I overdosed.  As I lay in bed, my body began to shut down.  A feeling of death slowly crept up my fingers and toes; as if my limbs were turning to concrete; I recall thinking, “This must be what it feels like to be a wall, or a stone; or some other dead, inanimate object.”  Fearing my own demise, I mustered all of the strength I had left to speak; and out of my mouth came the words, “Jesus help me…Jesus help me…Jesus help me.”  As I continually repeated this phrase, the dead feeling began to recede back down my limbs (the life returned to my body and I recovered fully.)  Jesus Christ saved me from the jaws of death and eternal condemnation.  Although I had abandoned God, God had not abandoned me; despite my belief that I was alone in that apartment I was not; for God was present with me.  Sometime later I gave my life to the Lord, and I now know that He has always been with me; protecting and preventing; guiding and directing; watching and waiting, for the day of my salvation.  Today, I realize that no matter how great the difficulties I might face, I will never again face them alone.

Even when we feel completely alone, we are not.  When family, friends, and society itself has turned away from us, God is near.  He waits patiently for every sinner to receive His free gift.  Our Heavenly Father is anxious to love and to forgive.  He is desperate to embrace the lonely, the lost, and the lifeless.  Cry out to Him and He will hear you.  Have faith in Christ and you will know salvation.  Turn to The Lord and grab hold of your constant companion; He is a Father who will love you eternally; a friend who will stand beside you forever; and a God “who will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

“Lord Heavenly Father, we cry out to You now; reveal Yourself to us; we accept Your sacrifice and fully embrace You.  May You never leave us nor forsake us.  May You always dwell within our hearts; comfort us; direct us; and fellowship with us eternally.  Lord Jesus, may we never be lonely again; knowing that You are our everlasting companion; our Compassionate Creator; and our faithful friend.  We love You Father; we love You Lord Jesus; and we ask and pray all of these things according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

Spreading the message

JESUS SPEAKING

In the meantime his disciples urged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”  Therefore the disciples said to each other, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows, and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4: 31-38.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The disciples had just gone in to the city to buy food and they had left Jesus sitting by a well. He opened up a dialogue with a woman who came to draw water, and she became a believer. The disciples returned with the food, but Jesus wasn’t hungry because converting the woman had nourished him. Jesus made it known that converting others was more urgent than the need for food. Between the planting and harvesting seasons there was a period of patient waiting, a time to relax; the Lord revealed that the time to relax and be patient was over; the time for harvesting souls had begun. The heads of wheat would turn a white color when it was time for them to be harvested; in this way, Jesus compares men and wheat, saying, “look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.” From the beginning of creation, God’s words were the seeds, and every human heart was the ground in which these words were sown. The sowers were the prophets, who labored to get His words to the people. The reapers were the disciples, who had not labored in the sowing of the word, but were commissioned by Jesus to gather the fruit that came from the labors of the prophets. So, both the prophets and the disciples would celebrate together in the Kingdom. The work of God continues today; the eternal sowing and reaping proceeds with just as much urgency as when Jesus spoke these words. And today, if we reap, or if we sow, in the coming kingdom, all who have labored for God will rejoice together.

Recently I took a gentleman to the emergency room; there happened to be quite a large number of people who needed care. We sat there for most of the day, waiting. The order in which the people were ushered in to the back was based upon the severity of their condition. Shortness of breath, severe abnormal headache, hemorrhaging, were all considered life threatening. The likelihood of death was what set the priority in that emergency room; not order of arrival. In life, the entire world is an emergency room, filled with dying people. Many don’t know they are dying, and others do, but everyone is sick, and everyone needs to see the Doctor. Those who are the Lord’s have been healed, and they have the cure. The cure is an experience with Jesus Christ. The fruit is made up of people who give their lives over to God, and make the teachings of the Lord their foundation for living. Those who are healed look forward to an eternal life with God in His Kingdom.

The person sitting next to you on the bus is dying; the person beside you in the coffee shop is headed for a cliff; the cashier at the bank is sick and needs help. Can you help them today? Will you help them today? Can you plant a seed, can you harvest a crop? How difficult is it to lean over and tell another person about what Jesus Christ has done in your life, and tell them what he can do in their life? How much discomfort does it cause you to let a nonbeliever know that you will be praying for them; or to quote a scripture when another person is down and in need of hope? The planting and the harvesting began a long time ago, but they continue today in all those who choose to do God’s work.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we ask and pray that You would please give us divine appointments; bring us people that are sick and need to hear the gospel; speak through us, to them, and to their hearts. Help us to serve You with a fervency, and diligence, and may we bear much fruit for You, and for 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.

The meaning of crucifixion

JESUS SPEAKING

Pilate […] went again in to the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Are you not speaking to me?  Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?”  Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”  (John 19: 8 – 11.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Bound, bloodied, and beaten, Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate (the Roman Governor of Judea.)  The Jews demanded he be sentenced to death.  Not wanting to kill an innocent man, Pilate proceeded to question him; but Jesus remained silent.  Unaware he was standing before the Son of God, Pilate warned him that his silence could lead to his crucifixion.  Jesus kindly corrected the Governor; reminding him that it was God who would dictate his sentence.  Pilate falsely believed he was in control of the outcome of the trial; in reality, he was merely an instrument in the hands of God; used to bring about His eternal plan of salvation.

Still today, many look back upon the events surrounding Christ’s death and blame the Romans or the Jewish people.  They forget that Jesus Christ was not murdered; his crucifixion was the work of God (not the work of man.)  Our Lord was not forced to endure the cross, he chose to endure it.  Nor was it the nails that held him in place that faithful day; it was love.  He died freely to accomplish the will of God.  The cross is not a symbol of anguish, but an emblem of grace and mercy; for upon the cross, the Lord endured the punishment for our sins; that through his selfless act, we might all enter in to fellowship with the Almighty God.  Sacrifice is a necessary expression of ultimate affection; Jesus Christ’s death is a love letter addressed to mankind.  The blood spilled at the foot of the cross is proof that God desperately loves His children.

Have you come to know the love of God?  Do you know why Jesus Christ died for you?  He died so all those who believe can draw near to their eternal Father.  Accept God’s sacrifice and invite Him in to your heart.  Give Him your life, and let him guide you.  He will adore you; He will love you; and He will protect you.  Surrender to your creator, and you will know true peace.  Open your heart to the Son of God and receive His blessings.  Accept the love of God, and your heart will overflow with unending joy.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we accept Your sacrifice, and we thank You for sending Your Son to die for us.  His blood is our blessing; may we surrender our lives to You.  Draw near to us Father, that we might know you intimately.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us new life; and may You dwell in our hearts forever.  We love You Lord, 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.

Can we be trusted?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16: 10-12)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

There are two kinds of riches; earthly riches, and heavenly riches. The heavenly riches are far more valuable, for they are eternal.  God has granted to mankind temporary possession of many earthly treasures.  Every human being is a steward; a steward is ‘someone who manages property or other affairs for someone else.’  How one handles what they have been given in this life, indicates whether they are capable of properly handling eternal life.  Those who have abused what is God’s will never receive their own everlasting possessions.

When I was young (before I knew Jesus Christ) I had little respect for the possessions of others.  Whenever my mother allowed me to take her vehicle, I abused it.  I would hit jumps, take friends out riding on dirt roads, and drive through snow banks.  In college, my dad bought me a new vehicle; a car ‘all my own.’  I abused that car to within an inch of its life. I smoked in it; I left garbage wrappers in it; I hit jumps with it; once when I was drunk I rode over a bunch of mail-boxes with it (popping the tire.)  I had a friend kick in the side door; I got it stuck in a ditch; I had a window smashed in; the door handles were ripped off etc.  Eventually the automobile was taken away from me.  Had my Dad read this scripture, he would have known I was not worthy to possess my own vehicle.

This life is a test.  The things we have are not ours; they are God’s.  Our wives, our children, our houses, our cars, our friends, our families, our bodies, our jobs, and even our money; it all belongs to God, and we must care for them accordingly.  If we succeed in being good stewards of the possessions in this life, we will receive for ourselves, eternal possessions.  Be a good steward of what you have been given; take care of what is His; and your reward will be great.  If you can be trusted with what is least, He will one day entrust you with what is much.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You help us to be good stewards of what we have been given.  May we be faithful in the very least of our possessions.  May we always be pleasing to You; and may we one day inherit true riches; eternal riches; everlasting riches.  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.

Stony Ground

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Mathew 30: 20 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The gospel is a powerful force; like a raging torrent, it demands reverence and respect.  Just as rivers gouge out valleys and tear apart mountains, the gospel transforms lives.  Many eagerly receive God’s Holy Spirit but lack foresight; they do not understand the magnitude of changes God intends to perform in their lives.  True faith is costly; the price of salvation is death; death to our old lives.  One must willingly be destroyed in order to be remade in the image of Christ.  Those whose hearts are stony experience a very shallow relationship with God.  They desperately cling to old familiar habits and abandon their faith when it requires real change.  They turn from the light and live in darkness; choosing comfort above growth and sin over righteousness. 

                When a famous gangster named Mickey Cohen was released from prison in the 1950’s, a Pastor by the name of Bill Jones made it his personal mission to convert him to Christianity.  When Jones presented Mickey with the gospel, he said a prayer and accepted Jesus in to his heart.  Soon, word of his conversion spread, and many were amazed to hear that this once villainous mobster had turned to Christ.  Although Mickey enjoyed being called a ‘Christian,’ he refused to live like one.  “He soon lost touch with Pastor Jones, and began to hang around his old buddies from the criminal underworld.  The disheartened Jones confronted Cohen to tell him that as a Christian, he needed to put distance between himself and his old [criminal associates].  Puzzled, Cohen responded, “Jones, you never told me that I had to give up my career.  You never told me that I had to give up my friends.  There are Christian movie stars, Christian athletes, and Christian businessmen.  So what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster?  If I have to give up all that – if that’s Christianity – then count me out.”

                Sadly Mickey’s story is not uncommon; out of the four different types of soil Christ describes, the stony heart can be the most deadly; for within it, there exists the greatest propensity for self-deception.  Believing a verbal profession of faith to be sufficient for salvation, many remain unchanged.  With their lips they affirm Christ, but with their lives they deny him.  Continuing in behaviors such as, pornography, fornication, drunkenness, idolatry, and dishonesty (to name a few), many delusional souls travel toward an eternal precipice from which there is no return.  If you can identify with this type of soil, then you have two choices; continue forward toward damnation, or get honest with yourself and begin a new life with Jesus; a life of repentance; a life free from darkness and unrighteousness; a life lived as a disciple of Christ; a life fully committed to purity, church fellowship, prayer, evangelism, and bible reading.  May the Lord give you the courage, strength, and conviction to make the right choice.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, transform us in to the image of Your Son.  May we lay down our old lives to take up our new ones.  May our relationships with You be deep and meaningful.  May our lives always confirm our verbal professions of faith.  If we have not fully committed our lives to You, reveal to us the areas where we have refused to change; and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to overcome and to conquer.  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. 

Faith in Christ is the True Church

JESUS SPEAKING:

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Don’t stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38-39.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS:

Every good work done in the name of Christ is commendable in the sight of God.  Those who oppose such works (for whatever reason) practice evil.  The disciples mistakenly commanded an unknown man to cease casting out demons in Christ’s name.  Jesus rebuked them for ignorantly believing that God would only use members of their inner circle.  The man was filled with faith; enough faith to perform miracles in his name; he was not a stranger; rather, the man they confronted and corrected was in fact, their brother.  Authority and power come from God; they do not come from men.  Briefly, the disciples believed themselves to be more than servants; they selfishly attempted to set themselves apart, and to control and contain the work of God; in so doing, they stood in opposition to Him.

Throughout the centuries, there have been many who have fallen victim to the exact same mistake made by the disciples.  Some vainly believe they alone possess the power and authority of God; the Mormons say, “This church is the only true and living church on the face of the whole earth.”  The J-hovah’s Witnesses say, “We acknowledge as the visible organization of J-hovah on earth, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.”  The International Church of Christ says, “There is one church! There is one God. There is one kingdom of God and this is it!”  The seventh day Adventists say, “Since we keep all ten Commandments and have Ellen White as our prophet, we Seventh-day Adventists are The Remnant Church!”  The True Jesus Church claims that they are “the true church restored by God through the Holy Spirit of the latter rain. She is the revival of the apostolic church in the end times.”  Any organization that claims membership with them is a prerequisite for true salvation stands opposed to the Lord they profess to serve.

Jesus Christ can never be replaced by a denomination; rituals and traditions cannot usurp the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those who say affiliation with their church is necessary are in rebellion against the one true and living God.  It can be very difficult to keep the gospel simple, and to keep Christ at the center of the faith (avoid those who practice sectarianism.)  Jesus is what connects us; he binds us to one another; he brings us together; he alone is our salvation and our strength; he is the center of our faith; may you always keep him close; and may you continue to seek fellowship with those who love him.

“Lord Heavenly Father, give us discernment; may we never forget that faith in Your Son is what truly matters.  May our good works always be done in Your name.  Help us to avoid those who seek to replace our trust in You with a faith in a denomination or sect.  May we draw near to one another as we draw near to Your son.  Father, continue to fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that through us, Your miracles may continue to be done in this world.  We thank You Father, we love You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.