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.    


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