Archive for December, 2011

Embracing Change

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put in to new wineskins and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5: 37-39.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the ancient world, when an animal was slaughtered the stomach and the bladder were extracted and utilized to store and transport valuable liquids.  Wine was a very common first century beverage.  Unlike water, wine underwent a process known as fermentation; during which gases were produced; these gases caused the wineskins to swell and expand.  The older wineskins were hard and inflexible (like leather.)  As the new wine expanded, it would cause them to tear open.  Therefore, unfermented wine was always placed in to new wineskins.  In this illustration, the old wineskins represent old ideas, habits, and beliefs that are incompatible with the new life God has offered through His Son Jesus Christ.  Most people desperately cling to their old lives; yet those who follow Jesus Christ must let go of the old and grab hold of the new; they must no longer fear change; but rather, they must fully embrace it.

                Shortly after becoming a Christian, God began to make some very serious changes in my life.  For many years I had enjoyed listening to secular rap music and heavy metal.  One day God showed me how it was negatively affecting my spirit.  So, I made a commitment to only listen to worship music (which was positive, clean, and uplifting.)  My appetite for the old music was strong; at first the new music wasn’t appealing to me; but slowly I began to enjoy it.  Soon I was joyfully singing along with the songs; I noticed my attitude was more positive; my thoughts were more peaceful; I even began to smile with ever greater frequency [Note: today, the old songs are no longer appealing to me; I even find them repulsive.]  God has made similar changes in every area of my life.  He has healed me; the old things have passed away; behold, He “has made all things new.”

                God desires to pour His Spirit in to the hearts and minds of those who are willing to receive it.  His Spirit produces great transformation.  We must let go of our fears; we must become willing to change; we must not be rigid and inflexible; only in embracing and allowing God to transform us, will we truly experience new life.  Let go of your old ideas, habits, and beliefs, and receive the fullness of God’s Spirit.  Allow Him to guide and direct you and He will lead you into His everlasting peace and eternal joy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You make wonderful transformations in our hearts and minds.  May we become flexible; may we embrace change.  Jesus, we desire to become more like You; remove any habits, ideas, or beliefs that stand in the way of our growth; destroy the old and bring forth the new.  May we experience the fullness of Your Holy Spirit.  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.

Recieving God’s people

JESUS SPEAKING

                “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me, receives the one who sent me.  He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.  And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Mathew 10: 40-42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the culture of Jesus’ day, long distance communication was accomplished by way of messenger.  An emissary would often deliver a message from one king to another.  Mistreating the king’s messenger was equivalent to mistreating the king himself.  Therefore, most were treated as if they were the king; they were fed fine cuisine, pampered, celebrated, and offered gifts.  Those who loved the messenger loved the king; those who hated the messenger also despised his master.  The emissary then returned home and reported his experience to His Lord.  How he had been treated would dictate the health of any future relations. 

                I worked for many years in outside sales.  My job entailed establishing new relations with other retailers.  On one occasion I walked in to another person’s establishment and began to speak with the secretary.  The owner overheard the conversation and became brash with me.  He told me angrily that he wasn’t interested; apparently some years earlier one of his customers had been taken away by a sales person at our company.  I was treated poorly; because of his hatred for my company.

                Those who reject and hate Jesus Christ hate God himself.  Those who reject a Christian, a preacher, a pastor, or a priest without cause have rejected Christ.  Those who despise the church hate the savior who has founded it.  We must all respect and care for God’s children.  May we always accept, cherish, and honor His divine messengers.  For our treatment of other believers is an indication of our love for God Himself.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we recognize and reach out to those who come in Your name.  May we love Your emissary’s and cherish Your children.  May we open our homes, our hearts, and our lives to those who worship You.  May we treat them as we would treat You; may we continue to honor and celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ.  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 Free Gift

JESUS SPEAKING

                “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,and said, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Mathew 20: 1-16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the parable, the landowner represented God in the form of Jesus Christ.  The ‘first workers’ represented the men (the Pharisees and religious leaders) that God had called to minister to the world; these men had been faithful for many years; some their whole lives; they had avoided lying, adultery, and drunkenness; they prayed, and observed the feasts and the commandments of God.  They felt that their own efforts and righteous deeds had earned them a distinguished place with The Lord.  The sinners of the world were represented by the ‘later workers,’ who had lived the majority of their lives in sin.  Jesus (‘the landowner’), had been calling all sinners to repent; many prostitutes and tax collectors were being baptized and turning to God; they began to do the work of the Lord, side by side with those who had never strayed from the path of righteousness.  In the parable, the ‘day’s wage’ represented the gift of salvation; the free gift offered to all mankind (irrespective of past works.)  The religious leaders hated Jesus, because he had made them equal to new converts; they felt entitled to a greater reward from God for their many good deeds.  Those who received what they did not deserve glorified God; those who believed salvation had to be earned, despised the grace of God in order to glorify themselves.  Some thing’s can never be earned, they can only be received.

                Many years ago, I was working in sales when the economy crashed.  One day, I was called in to my manager’s office, and I was ‘let go.’  I picked up my last check, and began looking for work full time.  I sent in untold numbers of resumes and went on countless interviews.  No call backs, no second interviews; I continued in this strenuous routine for nearly five months, until rejection after rejection finally produced within me, great discouragement and despair.  I decided to stop striving so hard to find work, and instead I committed my future to the Lord.  I began to work for free and to serve God and others.  I started volunteering at a non-profit, a local church, and a senior center.  I visited an orphanage, and continued doing outreach in the community.  A couple of months later, I received a call from some company I don’t remember submitting a resume too.  I was hired to be a caregiver, and to help a needy man with his daily living needs.  God had used many months of disappointment to humble me.  He brought me to the point at which I was able to receive the job as a blessing and not a wage.  I didn’t get the job because I had worked hard; nor was I overly qualified.  Instead it was a gift I gratefully received from God.

                Today, there are many people who believe that they deserve God’s favor; they emphasize self-righteousness and human effort.  But Jesus Christ came to offer something that cannot be earned; he came to bring salvation to those who are willing to say “I am unworthy.”  Apart from the cross, no human being can be right with God.  Those who follow Christ rejoice in knowing that they are freely forgiven; they stand side by side with those who have labored long in the faith.  All believers are drawn together as one by the sweet blood of God’s only begotten Son.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we accept Your free gift of salvation.  Give us the humility to grab hold of Your mercy and grace.  Help us to avoid being judgmental; may we rejoice with new believers, knowing that they have received the same great gift that You have given us.  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.    

Doing the word of God

JESUS SPEAKING

            “But why do you call me Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6: 46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            ‘Lord,’ or ‘master,’ is a title that implies supreme authority.  Every master employs servants.  A faithful servant obeys his master without question.  An unfaithful servant says he will obey but does not.  The faithful and unfaithful have this in common; both can hear the word of God.  But hearing alone accomplishes very little.  Many atheists have read the bible; those who hate Christ have some knowledge of scripture; the devil himself excels in his understanding of divine truth.  Yet understanding and knowledge are meaningless without genuine obedience.  What distinguishes the faithful from the unfaithful isn’t years of contemplation and careful study; rather, it is the daily application of God’s word; those who fully implement the actions of Jesus Christ, serve the one true and living God.

            Jesus said, “You are the light of the world […] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Recently, after reading this scripture, I chose to implement it; I began by buying brownies for the coffee shop employees; I attached a card thanking them for their wonderful service.  I then delivered brownies to the bank employees and wished them a Merry Christmas.  I also bought and delivered a small Christmas snack to an acquaintance who works at the grocery store; and another to a friend in the coffee shop.  I gave a gift to an employee at the gym.  I then bought and delivered a toy to the church office for the Christmas toy drive.  While answering the prayer lines at the church I gave Christmas gifts to everyone in the front office.  When I arrived at work later in the day, I handed a Christmas gift to my co-worker.  Then I shared my dinner with the client I work for.  I had been obedient to the teaching of the Lord, and he used me to bring Him Glory.  Reading God’s word is one thing; applying it is another.

            Often, when you read the word of God, you have accomplished half of the necessary task.  When you listen to a sermon you have received inspiration that demands application.  Faith in its complete form is an action.  Faithful servants hear the words of Jesus Christ and do them.  If you desire obedience, become familiar with your masters teachings; read His word daily; and seek (with all your heart) to carry out His desires in the lives of all those you meet. [Note:  Knowledge of the Lord’s commands is necessary.  In the bible, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ is one the most concise and condensed summaries of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Become very familiar with this section of scripture.  The discourse begins in Mathew Chapter 5 verse 1, and ends in Mathew chapter 7, verse 27.]   

            “Lord Jesus, we want to be doers of Your word.  May Your inspiration find its application in our lives.  Teach us Your precepts and fill our hearts with Your commands.  Give us the opportunities to accomplish Your will in this world.  May all of our deeds exemplify Your love for others.  May we lay down our lives to serve You; our Lord and our master!  We love You Jesus, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Your name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Shining Brightly

JESUS SPEAKING

            “You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it provides light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mathew 5: 14 – 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            It is impossible for a true Christian to remain unrecognized.  To stay hidden is to fail to fulfill God’s purpose.  Every true believer is called to be different; to stand out; to be set apart; loving where there is no love; giving where selfishness reigns; faithfully encouraging others; nurturing those who are sick; caring for the needy; filling the hearts of others with hope and joy.  Genuine faith produces an abundance of good works.  God’s people are set apart; they are a light in a dark world; they are divine objects that point toward a loving and everlasting Father.

            Of all the planets and stars outside the earth’s atmosphere, the brightest is the North Star (it is actually the planet Venus.)  Nearly all stars travel across the night’s sky; yet due to the Earth’s spin, Venus remains fixed; a characteristic that made it useful to ancient mariners who sought to navigate the open ocean.  The North Star’s brightness also made it the easiest star for sailor’s to recognize.  In a sea of stars, it outshines all of the others.  It cannot be confused with the thousands of dimmer stars that fill the heavens.  [Some time ago, I was walking through Wal-Mart, browsing.  The store was filled with people.  I was smiling at people as they passed by (as is my custom.)  Suddenly a woman who was inspired by my positive acknowledgement, stopped and came back up to me and said, “Thank God someone is smiling in this place.”  After our brief interaction, she continued forward.  She had seen in me the joy of the Lord; the light of Christ; something peculiar and rare, but refreshing and welcomed.]

            Like the North Star, the believer is by far the brightest object in the lives of those around them.  In a sea of (dimly lit) non-believers, the followers of Jesus Christ standout; they are different; they can be easily recognized; they are filled with love, charity, and compassion.  Their hearts overflow with kindness, joy, and peace.  They orient others by pointing them upward toward God (who is the source of all love and mercy.)  If you have received the salvation that is from God, then you are different; do not seek to remain hidden.  Instead, let the light of The Lord shine through you; so others may see your good works and know that there is a God who loves them. 

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be different.  We desire to be more loving, more caring, and more giving.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, and help us to shine brightly in this dark and unloving world.  May others see our good works and be drawn to You; the God who loves them.  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.    

Warning for the Lukewarm

JESUS SPEAKING

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish that you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth […] as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3: 14 – 16, 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

After being seized by the Romans, the Apostle John was marched in to a crowded coliseum and plunged in to a vat of boiling oil.  But when he remained unharmed, masses of people within the coliseum began to convert to Christianity.  The Romans, fearing his influence, placed him in prison on a deserted Island off the cost of Turkey (known as Patmos.)  Church tradition teaches us that on this island, in about the year 95 A.D., an aging John (the last living Apostle) received a revelation from Jesus Christ.  In this revelation Jesus addressed the seven churches located in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  The Laodicean church had become lukewarm in their faith; they were once bold, zealous, and uncompromising.  Yet, over time they succumb to personal comforts, complacency, and routine.  Jesus sternly rebuked them; his command: be zealous again; reach out; be bold; spread the gospel; be eager to do good and to serve; and work hard to save souls.  God’s message to the Laodiceans is timeless; it pertains to the church today.  There is no half-way; a moderate faith is a dead faith.  For the believer there are no vacations, no breaks, and no retirement.  Those who stop serving God fully, are in danger of becoming lukewarm, cold, and dead.

Interestingly enough, a recent study revealed that early retirement can lead to an increased risk of death.  In 2005, three groups of people were studied; those who retired at 55; those who retired at 60; and those who retired at 65.  “In this research, death was almost twice as likely in the first 10 years after retirement at age 55 compared with those who continued working.”  The tendency to take it easy and relax can have disastrous results.  To lose enthusiasm for God’s message is to fail to fulfill the highest calling of God.  We must fervently work for the Lord until he returns to gather us together.

Are you eager to serve God and others; or have you been serving yourself?  Are you on fire for the Lord, or have you become cold?  Are you readily spreading the gospel, or have you fallen silent?  Have you faded in to the background, or do you speak the truth in boldness?  Be brave and reach out for Christ.  May your heart be ignited by the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit.  May the words of God flow from your mouth, and may your good works never cease; may God use you to transform the lives of others; and may you represent the church of God with conviction and zeal.

“Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cause our hearts to burn for You.  Grant us boldness and faithfulness.  May we shine brightly in the lives of all those we meet.  Give us the words to speak, and the strength to continue.  May we never grow weary or become lukewarm; may we never cease from serving others, knowing that one day we will have our rest in You.  Lord, we love You, 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.

Does God love me?

JESUS SPEAKING

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8 – 10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The greatest question one can ever ask is, “Does God love me?”  The answer expressed in this parable is Yes.  Every character in a parable has a corresponding real life counterpart.  The woman who lost her coin represents God and the coins represent all faithful believers.  The lost coin represents those who have wandered away from God (Men and women who unknowingly subject themselves to painful and destructive experiences.)  God desperately seeks after those who are estranged (sparing not his only Son, to reveal His love for the lost.)  Despite the Lord’s long and arduous attempts at reconciliation, He is often painfully denied.  For those who truly understand the depths of His love, it becomes clear why there is such a joyful celebration in heaven when a single sinner repents; The Creator has once again found a lost son or daughter; someone precious and unique; someone who is completely irreplaceable; someone He will cherish for all eternity.

The Old Testament book of Hosea is a glimpse in to God’s enduring love for those who do not love Him.  Nearly 800 years before Jesus was born, God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman (a woman who was adulterous and unfaithful.)  Hosea was instructed to continually seek after her, and to continually forgive her for her indiscretions; in turn, he lived a tormented life; constantly loving a woman who did not love him (possibly going so far as to even raise a child he did not Father.)  The book of Hosea is a record of his heartache.  God used Hosea’s experience as a real life illustration; an illustration of His relationship with mankind.  The Lord has sought after, and loved even the worst sinners throughout history; yet most have returned his love with disbelief, hatred, contempt, and idolatry (worshipping other Gods.)  God’s heart aches for the lost; those who call Him Father, share in that same heartache.

Like Hosea who never stopped seeking after his wife, God continues to search for the lost.  He stops at nothing; He spares no expense; He never falters; never grows weary; never takes a day off.  Even today, in coffee shops, in places of employment, in homes, and in public, His message of love and reconciliation are being preached.  As people continue to give their lives back to God, heaven is erupting in celebration.  Will you carry God’s message?  Will you seek after the lost?  Will you do the work of God?  Will you tell others that there is a God who desperately loves them; a God who waits for them; a God who can heal them; a God who will give them true life?  You too will experience rejection and heartache; but you will also experience true joy when you witness a sinner receive salvation.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your love.  We thank You for constantly seeking the lost.  May we be reconciled to You today; help us to experience the joy You are so freely offering.  May we reach out to others; may we be instruments of Your love; may we too, lovingly seek those who are lost.  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.