Archive for February, 2012

The meaning and purpose of life

JESUS SPEAKING

                Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said:  “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may bring glory to You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.  And this is eternal life, that they also may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17: 1-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus performed many miracles; he presented the gospel, he healed the sick; he brought hope to the hopeless; he even raised the dead; yet despite his many profound acts, his suffering was his greatest work.  The single most prolific event in human history was, and always will be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; for God glorified his Son by lifting him up upon the cross (high enough for the whole world to see.)  The cross is a love letter from God to mankind; it is an invitation to know the almighty creator.  [Every human being desires to know their true purpose; Jesus has taught us that we were created to know and love God (Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God.”)  Unless one accepts the blood of Christ, they will never be complete; they will never experience peace; they will never know their true purpose.]

                For many years I was an atheist/agnostic.  I rejected the bible and the idea that there was a loving God.  In turn, I sought to discover the truth through learning; I studied philosophy, physics, and cosmology.  I read the works of great thinkers; people who were renowned for their supposed wisdom.  I wanted to know the meaning of life; why was I here; what was my purpose?  Despite diligently seeking the truth, I never found it.  Those intelligent men I idolized were great at asking interesting questions, but miserable at providing any meaningful answers.  When I finally accepted Jesus Christ, my many years of searching were over; at last, I had discovered the truth.  I had all of the answers to every question I could ever ask.  I understood that I was created to bring pleasure to God; to serve Him, to love Him, and to be loved by Him.  For the first time in my life I began to know peace.  [Illustration:  The pound is full of animals that sit anxiously waiting for some loving person to snatch them up.  They were created to live in a loving relationship with a protector, a provider, and a friend; they were designed to love and to be loved.  Those that are adopted come to experience the fulfillment of their intended purpose.  Sadly many never leave the pound; equally distressing, there are many humans who reject the cross, and with it, they reject the God who loves them.

                The meaning of life is to love God, and to be loved by Him.  The sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross is God’s gift to every human being; it is His invitation to experience fulfillment.  Stop searching and embrace your true purpose.  Accept Christ’s work of redemption and you will know peace; love God and He will love you; give yourself to the Lord and you will finally be complete.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your sacrifice and we accept it; may we live in eternal fellowship with You; may we know true peace and may we fulfill our intended purpose; may we always be pleasing to You; may we create joy in Your heart; and may we feel the awesome power of Your love and Mercy.  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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Seeing loved ones again

JESUS SPEAKING

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give to you whatever you ask.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me shall live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”  […]  Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.  […] Now when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go” (John 11: 21 – 27, & 38 – 44.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus asked Martha if she believed, and she affirmed that her faith was true.  The Lord then walked with her to the tomb, and ordered the stone to be rolled back; he commanded Lazarus (who had been dead for four days) to arise and come forth; Lazarus was instantly restored to life.  As he staggered out of the tomb Martha’s mourning heart was healed; she had experienced a miracle; she had been reunited with her dead brother.  Those who have felt the devastating loss of a family member or friend can understand Martha’s pain (and her joy.)  Death has been causing extreme heartache and sorrow for thousands of years; it separates loved ones; it takes and never gives back; death is cold, and without remorse; it is always on time and never accepts no for an answer.  Yet in the midst of the mourning and sadness, Jesus Christ has the power and authority to reunite those who have been separated.  There is no death for those who believe.  In His kingdom relationships are renewed and restored; friendships are revived; widows embrace their husbands, and children are reconciled to their parents.

                Recently, a South African man suffered a very serious asthma attack.  His family examined him and he appeared unresponsive; he was not breathing and had no pulse.  They called the morgue to come and pick him up; upon arriving, the driver also examined the body, and deemed the man to be dead.  He collected the body, returned to the morgue and put the man in a freezer for 21 hours.  The morgue workers were startled and distressed when they began to hear someone calling out from within the frigid compartment.  They were so frightened that they first called the police to come and investigate the matter.  The police opened the freezer and discovered the dead man was very much alive.  As the family members were mourning together and planning the funeral they received a phone call informing them that their loved one was still living; in an instant, their hurting hearts were healed and their sadness was turned to joy.  This amazing story became headline news and a spokesman from the health department urged South Africans to leave pronouncing people dead to medical health professionals.

                In much the same way, when a believer dies they appear lifeless; their bodies turn cold and begin to decay; yet although they may be laid to rest in the ground, they are living with God in His Kingdom.  “To be absent from the body (is) to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5: 8.)  Have you felt the sting of death?  Have you experienced the sadness of a loss?  Is there someone you yearn to see again?  Take heart, for the lost are not truly lost; those who have died are not truly dead.  If you believe, you will be reunited with them (at least with those who were themselves believers.)  Your loved ones are waiting for you; they happily expect your embrace, and eagerly anticipate your arrival.  Believe in Christ and you will receive eternal life.  Hope in God’s promises and you will live forever.  Trust in the Lord and you will see those you have lost; faith will bring you to them, and your sorrow will turn to joy, and your heart will overflow with Gladness.

 “Lord Father, we ask for increased faith; strengthen us, and help us to trust in You.  We know that death no longer has power over us.  We are eternal and we will live forever with You in Your Kingdom.  We believe in Your son, and we trust in Your promises.  We know that many of our loved ones are with You; and we anxiously await the day of our reunion.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, may we endure until that day.  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 narrow path

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mathew 7: 13-14.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the ancient world, cities were places of safety and refuge.  Most were surrounded by large walls designed to protect the inhabitants from hostile enemies.  The size of the walls depended on the prosperity of the city.  Babylon, (one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world), was rumored to have had walls that were 80 ft. thick and 320 feet high (15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.)  Every ancient city had one main gate (a large opening in the wall through which the majority of merchants, travelers, and citizens could freely pass.)  There were also many smaller gates that served a number of different purposes.  There were gates for livestock; gates for horses; gates for importing fish; and gates used to export garbage; many of these little gates were not connected to the major highway, and were more difficult to reach.  Most entered through the main gate because it was quick, easy, and convenient.  The road to eternal separation from God is also quick, easy, and convenient; but the way to eternal life is difficult; it requires great discipline, sacrifice, and selflessness.

                As a child and adolescent, my mother brought me to church quite regularly; however, despite many hours spent kneeling, standing, sitting and praying, I never heard anyone truly preach the gospel (at least not the whole gospel.)  I knew about Christ’s forgiveness and love; I was aware that he died for the sins of the world.  I understood the work of the cross, and the free gift of salvation.  I had learned about what God had done for me, and so I had comprehended the first half of the gospel message.  When I was in my twenties a friend took me to a church service; it was there that I finally heard the remaining half the message.  God expected something from me; I was required to repent and obey.  I had to turn away from fornication, adultery, drunkenness, lewdness, and deceit.  There in that church auditorium, I knew in my Spirit that I had to change [Illustration:  At one point during Christ’s earthly ministry, he chose to spend the evening in the home of a notorious sinner named Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax-collector.  He had amassed a fortune by overtaxing his own countrymen.  During the night, Jesus presented Zacchaeus with the whole gospel; and he received it gladly.  He immediately repented of his evil deeds and offered half of his wealth to the poor; he also promised to repay everyone from whom he had stolen.]

                Zacchaeus understood the full gospel message; he received the gift of salvation and immediately obeyed the teachings of Christ.  Most today refuse to repent; 78.4 percent of Americans claim to be Christian; yet 60 percent of young adult Christians believe that premarital sex and cohabitation are morally okay (to name just one of many ungodly behaviors.)  Millions are self-deceived; believing themselves’ to be Christians when they are not; they seek to enter through the wide gate because it is easy and convenient; it requires very little sacrifice; but it leads to eternal separation from God.  Few choose the narrow path; it is very difficult; it requires repentance and demands transformation; but it leads to everlasting life.  Which path are you taking?  Are you willing to embrace the complete gospel and to become a follower of Jesus Christ?  If you are, then remember that “God never claimed the journey would be easy; but He did say it would be worth it.”  

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we receive Your gift, and we take hold of Your sacrifice; may we turn away from the ways of the world, and embrace the commandments of Your one and only Son.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us the courage and strength to travel the narrow path; the path of righteousness; the path of repentance and transformation; the path that leads to Your eternal Kingdom; have mercy on us, that we may enter Your dwelling place with joy and thanksgiving.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Anger is murder

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You have heard it said long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Mathew 5: 21-22.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Few evil offenses can rival the act of murder; and murder, like so many sins, is merely the outward expression of an inward disposition.  All actions have their beginnings deep within the spirit.  First century Judaism stressed external adherence to the laws of God.  Jesus however, emphasized internal obedience; he focused on the heart; and rightly so; for murder is hatred which has grown to full maturity; laziness gives birth to poverty; and adultery is the offspring of lust.  Unless the heart is continually cleansed, evil will take root and produce a plethora of unholy actions.  God judges the inner man; therefore the believer must be diligent to maintain a clean heart; in so doing, they will also outwardly adhere to God’s commandments (In regard to inward purity, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”)

                John Wilkes booth is one of the most famous assassins in U.S. history.  On April 14th 1865, as the U.S. civil war drew to a close, President Abraham Lincoln was watching a play at Ford’s theatre in Washington D.C.  Mr. Booth, a famous stage actor, crept up behind the president with a pistol and shot him in the back of the head (a wound which proved to be fatal.)  Although Booth escaped, he was later caught and killed (Booth had been a loyal southerner, disillusioned and angered over Northern aggression.)   Abraham Lincoln’s death, although shocking and horrific, was not the result of an assassin’s bullet; instead it was the offspring of fully matured anger; hatred led to the deaths of both John Wilkes Booth and the 16th president of the United States of America.  [Another illustration:  It is interesting to note that unchecked anger can not only lead to spiritual death, but it can also lead to physical death.  A recent study conducted by John Hopkins university tracked 1,337 male medical students for 36 years following medical school; the study found that those who were quick to anger when undergoing stress, were three times more likely to “develop premature heart disease, and five times more likely to have an early heart attack.  Angry young men, it appears, turn in to angry old men with heart problems” (Cleveland Clinic, Anger and Heart Attack.)]

                Anger cannot be contained; it is a seed that grows in to hatred, and hatred generates sin; therefore, the Lord teaches that anger and murder are indistinguishable.  God makes no distinction between the seed that enters the ground and the fruit it eventually produces.  Search your heart; if you discover any anger or resentment, discard it; it only serves to separate you from your creator.  Allow God to cleanse you of all unrighteousness; let Him purify you, and fill you with His Holy Spirit.  Let go of your hostility, and you will experience the freedom of absolute forgiveness.

                “Lord Father we come before You and we ask and pray that You would let the truth of this scripture sink deep down into our hearts.  May our souls be pure and free from evil thoughts and desires.  Take away our anger and resentment; may we not judge others, but may we love them; knowing that you are the only righteous judge.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and transform us from the inside out.  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!  

The richness of charity

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.”  Then he spoke a parable to them saying, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’  So he said, ‘I will do this:  I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose things will those things be which you have provided?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God?” (Luke 12: 13-21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Jesus warned his followers to avoid covetousness; covetousness is the “excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves.”  Most people are unsatisfied with the bare necessities.  They, like the wealthy man in this parable, need abundance in order to feel secure.  When the rich man had fully filled his barns, he selfishly sought to keep the additional grain for himself; shamefully, he never considered the needs of the less fortunate.  The man’s plans for a comfortable future were short lived however; for death would visit him that same day.  The man lost his life, his possessions, and because of his greed, he lost his eternal place with God.

            When I was a child, my mother would often bake cookies.  When she had finished using most of the cookie dough, she would give the bowl and spoon to my siblings and I.  We would scrape the bowl and lick the spoon clean.  To us, every crumb was a nugget of sweet golden goodness.  Whatever was not consumed was unfortunately wasted.  God as well is not fond of wastefulness.  Whenever one seeks to possess more than they can use, they engage in a worthless and futile endeavor.  The Lord is greatly pleased when His children utilize their wealth to bless those in need.  Nothing in God’s kingdom ever goes to waste.  When asked how to prepare for the coming of the messiah, John the Baptist said, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food let him do likewise” (Luke 3: 11.) 

            Christians are required to employ their abundant possessions to glorify God, and to bless the needy.  If you are wealthy put your money to work for The Lord.  If you own property and you are not using it, offer it to someone who can.  If your closet is overflowing, gather up the overflow and bring it to the thrift store.  If you have excess time, don’t waste it; instead use it to love those who are hurting.  If God has given you abilities and talents, exercise them constructively; use them to serve your fellows.  No one is guaranteed tomorrow; put whatever you have been given in excess to work for God today.  May His generosity fill your hearts; may the desire to serve and to provide for the needs of others become a newfound principle in your life; and may you find comfort in knowing that your earthly charity will produce eternal riches.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You help us to be generous toward You and toward those who are in need.  Relieve our fears, so we can let go of greed and seek to use our abundance to bless others.  As we become willing to give, may we procure eternal riches; riches without end; riches reserved for us in Your Heavenly 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.

God’s true intentions

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now it came to pass, when the time had come for him to be received up, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for him.  But they did not receive him, because his face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them just as Elijah did?”  But he turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”  And they went to another village.  (Luke 9: 51-56.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                As Jesus neared Jerusalem, his disciples were sent in to the towns and villages ahead of him to preach the gospel and to prepare for his arrival.  A certain Samaritan village however, rejected the disciples and their message.  James and John felt insulted and dishonored; in turn, they asked if they should destroy the village with fire from heaven, just as Elijah had done centuries earlier [Elijah was a powerful Old Testament prophet; he was hated by Ahab, an evil king who reigned over Israel.  At one point Ahab sent fifty soldiers to arrest Elijah.  When they arrived Elijah called down fire from heaven and they were burned to death.  The king sent another fifty men; the prophet again called down fire from heaven and they too were consumed.  Finally, fifty more men approached Elijah, but the captain of the men immediately dropped down before him and begged for his mercy.  Moved by the plea, Elijah spared their lives.]  The disciples had come under the control of an evil spirit; a spirit which demanded vengeance.  Jesus rebuked them for their wicked aspirations.  If an action or desire is not motivated by God, it is the product of an evil spirit.  Revenge is never a Christian endeavor [On the contrary we read in Romans 12: 20 – 21, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink […] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”]

                In 1962, a young black man named Nelson Mandela was fighting to end racial segregation in South Africa.  He gained a great deal of support and power; when he became a military threat the Caucasian lead government had him arrested and put in to prison for 27 years.  While in prison, he was forced to do hard labor in a rock quarry.  Since he was black he received fewer rations than the whites; as a political prisoner, he was denied many privileges; he was only allowed one visitor and one letter every six months (and often the letters were delayed for long periods of time and ‘made unreadable by the prison censors.’)  By the time he was released in 1990 Nelson Mandela was a different man; he was no longer anti-white, but pro-peace.  In 1994, he was elected as the first black president of South Africa.  The day that he took office the world held its breath.  Would he take out his vengeance on those who had put him in to prison?  Would the nation fall in to violence and chaos?   Many expected him to at least dismiss all white people from their government positions and replace them with black counterparts.  But when he took office he displayed a true Spirit of forgiveness.  Most white cabinet members were boxing up their things, preparing for the new administration to take over.  Shockingly, President Mandela called an administrative meeting and asked many of the Caucasian staff members to stay and to help build the New Africa (and many of them did.)  Both black and white South Africans had misjudged the intentions of their leader.  His heart wasn’t filled with hatred; instead it was filled with mercy.  He had forgiven his enemies; and he was ready to love those who had once hated him.

                Many throughout history, and today, misjudge their Creator’s intentions and desires; they mistakenly feel that if they error, God is just waiting to cast them in to hell.  But God is not vengeful; nor is His heart filled with hatred; He is a loving Father, and His Son is the perfect example of mercy and grace.  Jesus Christ did not come to condemn mankind, but to set them free.  He offers forgiveness to all those who crave fellowship with the Almighty.  People need to know that there is a God who loves them; won’t you deliver that message to others today?  May the love of God flow out of you; may you be a messenger of reconciliation and peace; may you proclaim the good news to all those you meet, that many might receive the gift of everlasting life and eternal fellowship with God.  [If any of you have never experienced the love of God, get in touch with me, and we can discuss how you might do that today.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask that You help us to share Your heart with others.  May we be confident and bold in preaching Your message of love and reconciliation.  Protect us from evil spirits, that we might do all things by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Fill us with Your love, Your life, and Your truth.  Give us opportunities to share Your gospel.  Most of all Father, may we resemble Your Son in all that we do.  If there is any selfishness in us, we pray that You would heal our hearts, and bring them in to submission to Your perfect will.  We love You Father, we thank 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.

Freedom

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.  They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’  But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ,and you are all brethren.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Mathew 23: 1-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus spoke of the religious leaders saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”  In the Old Testament, God commanded that anyone who passed by a donkey that was straining under the weight of a heavy load was required to take some of that burden off of the donkey’s shoulders and carry it themselves.  God gave Ten Commandments and a number of simple rules by which to live; yet no man was able to completely obey them.  Despite man’s obvious failure, the Pharisees added hundreds of additional rules to the already heavy load.  For instance, God commanded his people to observe the Sabbath day (a day on which no one was allowed to work.)  However, God did not intricately define what constituted work; so the religious leaders decided to do it for Him; they created 39 different categories of work related laws; every distinct category consisted of a long list of prohibitions.  Many regulations were ridiculous; for example they outlawed writing, the tying and the untying of a knot, and the kindling and extinguishing of a fire.  (Carrying anything was also prohibited; when Jesus healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath, he told him to take up his mat mat and go home.  As the man walked through the crowds, the religious leaders saw him carrying his mat and absurdly accused him of breaking the Sabbath laws.)  Because the Pharisees made following God more difficult, many became resentful; those who needed God the most were being pushed even farther away from Him.  Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus came to help carry mankind’s burdens; not add to them. 

                In 570 A.D., a man named Mohamed was born in the city of Mecca (located in modern day Saudi Arabia.)  As an adult he started a religion known as Islam; a religion that exchanged the grace of God with man-made rules and regulations; to Mohamed, salvation was a wage that could be earned (rather than a free gift of God.)  No one can achieve righteousness through obedience to the law.  Instead, only the blood of Christ can make a man truly clean.  Not only did Mohammed reinstitute many of the Old Testament laws, he also added over 3000 additional ordinances to them.  For example, he said, one should ‘only eat with the right hand, with three fingers.’  A man was not allowed to eat an animal if he had killed it with a rock; water had to be snorted every day to keep the nose clean (free of evil spirits); all Muslims were required to wash their hands first thing in the morning; no one was permitted to enter a house through the back door; people were instructed to wipe off the bed at least three times before getting in to it; followers were to sleep on their right side with their right hand under their right cheek, and their knees slightly bent; a man could only use his left hand while urinating; if a dog drank from a dish, it had to be washed at least seven times; dogs were considered unclean and were therefore not to be owned as household pets; no one was permitted to drink out of a green jar or to eat garlic; women, dogs, and monkeys were not allowed to pass in front of a person praying (or their prayers would be nullified.)  Muslims were also commanded to pray five times a day, and to fast one month out of the year.

                Today many are straining under the burden of Islamic law; whole nations are in bondage and slavery to man-made rules and regulations.  The common man suffers, while the religious leaders reap the rewards of unholy power and prestige.  Empty outward obedience is in no way pleasing to God; instead, He desires inward faith in His only Son, Jesus Christ (in turn, acts of obedience are pleasing to Him.)  Jesus came to relieve man of the heavy burdens of religious rhetoric.  He simplified the law, saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All of the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love for God and others is the new law; the law of liberty; the law of simplicity; the law of sincerity.  When we love others, we obey God.  As you go about your day, love your fellows with a genuine heart; serve them unconditionally; comfort those who are hurting; give to those in need; reach out to the lost; be a light in the lives of all those you meet, and Christ will be your companion; he will carry your burdens and relieve your sorrows; and “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (note of caution:  God’s laws are still beneficial; Jesus did not come to abolish them entirely.)

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we lift You up; You are an awesome and amazing God; full of truth, and love and mercy.  Lord, please deliver those who are struggling under the burdens of religious oppression.  Set them free Father, and provide them with the knowledge of Your grace and mercy; may they come to know and love Your Son.  Lord, if we are carrying any unnecessary burdens, we give them to You now; take them from us; relieve us of our afflictions, that we might know what it means to truly be free.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”


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