Archive for March, 2012

Promoting Peace

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Son’s of God” (Mathew 5: 9)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The world is full of conflict.  Yet in the midst of the hostility, God’s children are called to promote peace.  The Lord Himself is a peacemaker; He detests war, and abhors senseless aggression.  Many who share His heart also share His mission; to bring harmony where there is hatred and tranquility where there is contempt.  Those who choose to make peace will inherit the unending and eternal blessings offered to the ‘Sons and daughters of God.’

                (As the story goes)  In the 4th century A.D., a monk named Telemachus felt God calling him to go to Rome.  He packed up his meager possessions and set out for the great city.  When he arrived, the streets were bustling with excitement.  He asked why everyone was so energized; he was informed that the gladiators would soon be fighting to the death in the coliseum.  He was horrified that men would be killing one another for sport.  The monk headed to the stadium; after entering he pushed through the crowds, hopped a fence, and made his way to the center of the arena.  As he stood between the two gladiators, he shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  The crowd began to yell, “Run him through, Run him through.”  A gladiator approached the monk and struck him in the stomach with the back of his sword.  Telemachus fell to the ground, but soon recovered.  He once again placed himself between the two armed men and shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  Suddenly the other gladiator approached the monk and plunged his sword in to his belly.  Telemachus immediately fell to the ground and began to bleed out.  Before dying, he was able to utter one last statement, “In the name of Christ, stop.”  A hush came over the crowd.  Suddenly one man got up and left; then another; and another; within minutes all 80,000 people had exited the coliseum.  That was the last gladiatorial contest in Roman history [Source Unknown.]  [Another illustration:  Just recently, two men began to argue in Star Bucks; as everyone watched, the conversation began to escalate; finally, one man put his hands on the other, and they were about to fight.  I stood up quickly and approached them.  I said in a loud voice, “Guys, Guys, you both need to cool off.  This is getting way too serious; just calm down.”  The men separated until the police arrived.  Afterwards I felt a feeling of joy, knowing that God had used me to accomplish His will.]

                The people of God are called to be peacemakers, no matter the consequence.  When others are silent we must speak up.  Where there is discord we must bring unity; where there is conflict we must promote peace.  In so doing we will be called ‘The children of God,’ and we will know the eternal blessings and unending joy of genuine and faithful obedience.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we long for obedience; may we share the desires of Your heart.  May we love others as You do.  May You continually use us to promote peace and to end conflict.  Give us the courage and the strength to speak up when others fall silent; may we be Your sons and daughters; and may we experience the blessings of genuine obedience.  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.

Avoid Gossip

JESUS SPEAKING

The high priest then asked Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine.  Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world.  I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet and have said nothing in secret” (John 18: 19-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

After being arrested, the Lord was taken before the Jewish leaders to be interrogated.  They sought to find something in his teaching by which to condemn him.  Jesus was considered a Rabbi; Rabbi’s spoke publicly; they gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions and to cross examine them (In fact, the religious leaders sent many servants in disguise to ascertain the nature of Christ’s doctrine.)  Jesus never said anything in secret that he did not also profess openly.  Speaking in secret is a sign of ungodliness (Gossip for instance is a type of destructive, private communication.  The Lord never gossiped and he never slandered; instead, he spoke the truth publicly and without remorse.)

One day a group of pastors began to talk.  They all agreed that those who confessed their sins on a regular basis were more joyful.  So the four men decided that they should meet and confess their sins to one another.  Upon meeting, the first pastor confessed that he routinely called in sick so he could attend the theatre.  The second pastor confessed that in the evenings he liked to smoke cigars.  The third pastor confessed that he had a major gambling problem; he often flew to Las Vegas where he would lose large sums of money.  The final pastor refused to confess.  But the other pastors pressed him until finally he made his admission.  He said, “Well, I confess that I really like to gossip, and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”

Although this fictional illustration is humorous, Gossip is not.  Jesus never engaged in gossip, and his followers should strive to be like him, ‘in thought, word, and deed.’  Everything we say must stand up under scrutiny.  Our private communication must be congruent with our public communication; if what we say cannot be printed on the front page of the newspaper, perhaps we have no business saying it.  Speak openly; speak truthfully; speak lovingly; and you will never be ashamed.

“Lord Heavenly Father, help us to avoid gossip; may we speak openly; may we never speak out of hate or contempt, but out of love.  Fill our hearts with Your Holy Spirit, and may our mouths always speak the truth.  May Your words be our words; may Your thoughts be our thoughts; may Your desires be our desires.  May we glorify You in ‘thought, word, and deed.’  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.

Giving when it hurts

JESUS SPEAKING

Now Jesus sat across from the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.  And many who were rich put in much.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  So he called his disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in much more than everyone who has given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12: 41 – 44.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Generosity is an essential part of the Christian faith.  God has commanded everyone to use their resources to bless others.  Giving to God what belongs to Him is known as tithing; a tithe is an offering of the first fruits of one’s increase; for example, a person who earns $100 dollars is instructed to give $10 dollars to the church; or to use it as charity in the lives of the less fortunate.  As Jesus watched the money box, he observed many wealthy people putting in huge sums of money; yet along came a poor widow, who couldn’t afford to tithe, and still she gave what she had; she gave when she couldn’t; she gave when it hurt; she trusted in the Lord, and in turn, Jesus honored her sacrifice above all others.

Despite giving larger quantities of money, many of the wealthiest people in America are actually the least charitable, proportionately (this is not always the case, many wealthy people do give what God has asked them to give, and they do give more than they can afford.)  A study published in Newsweek found that ‘most church members give far less than 10 percent;’ most actually give under 2 percent.  ‘Further, it seems that the poor give a far greater portion of their income than the rich (USA Today, Oct. 25, 1990.)  Actually, families that earned $10,000 dollars gave 5.5 per cent of their income to charity.  Families that earned between $50,000, and 60,000 dollars gave only 1.7 per cent of their earnings.’  It seems that the poor are often, but not always, the most generous givers.

Giving when it hurts is not always easy; nor is it completely logical; but it is praiseworthy.  When we give from our abundance we honor God; when we give from our poverty we learn to completely trust in Him.  The blessings of faithful charity are abundant; those who give in love, receive the gifts of the Spirit; as they draw nearer to God they experience peace, faith, and hope; the generous inherit an eternal possession that can never be taken away.  May you give when you can and may you give when it hurts; and may God honor you for your sacrifice.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to honor You with our possessions.  Help us to give to those in need; may we tithe continuously and may we receive the blessings of our faithful generosity.  We trust You Lord, and we withhold none of our resources from You.  May we give when we can, and may we give when it hurts.  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.

Being Prepared

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes […] But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12: 35-37, 39-40.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jewish weddings were very long engagements that often lasted many days.  The guests would recline on pillows and feast day and night; often falling asleep right next to the table.  The length of the celebration was uncertain; the guests could leave at one in the morning, or three in the afternoon.  When the master of a household went to a wedding the servants needed to be prepared for his return at any moment.  The servants remained dressed at all hours and their lamps stayed burning through the night.  Jesus used this parable as an illustration of his second coming.  After ascending in to heaven he promised he would return; yet he gave no specific day or hour; he could return today, in one month, or a hundred years from now.  Therefore those who serve him must eagerly await his arrival every minute of every day.  Those who are prepared are careful to maintain good works, to serve others, and to obey the Lord’s teachings and commandments.

                Many years ago, prior to my conversion I practiced a life of sinful disobedience.  Unable to support myself, I lived alone, in an apartment paid for by my Dad.  He would occasionally pop in to make sure the apartment was clean and in proper condition.  One evening, I hosted a drunken party and things got out of hand.  We smashed beer bottles in my living room with a golf club.  I shattered one of my apartment windows; someone even broke my car window with an empty beer bottle.  The toilet clogged and overflowed, and someone had written obscenities all over my wall with shaving cream.  I eventually passed out, thinking I could clean up in the morning before anyone came over.  However, early the next day I was roused from my sleep by the shouts of an angry man.  “Get up,” my dad yelled in my ear.  I sprang from the mattress, in shock.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, and filled with fear.  I had not expected him; I never foresaw that he would witness the carnage of my drunken debauchery.  He stood by and watched as I cleaned the apartment and picked up every single shard of broken glass.

                The Lord is coming at an hour when we least expect him.  We should eagerly await his return and always be ready.  Those who obey the teachings of Jesus Christ are prepared to meet him.  We must be kind to others; we must love others; and we must serve others every moment of every day.  May you never waver; may you always be prepared; and when your savior returns he will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant […] enter in to the joy of the Lord.”

                “Lord Father, may our eyes be wide and may our hearts be filled with the expectation of Your return.  Reveal to us any areas of our lives where we are serving ourselves rather than others; may we be convicted and may we repent; may we always be selfless, kind, and obedient.  May we receive more of Your Holy Spirit, that we may better serve You and our fellows.  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.

Fearlessly spreading the gospel

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mathew 10: 29-31.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ commands every believer to boldly preach the gospel.  Some will be despised and rejected; many will be ridiculed and threatened; still others may even face death.    No matter the consequence, the faithful must never remain silent.  Those who fear man cannot obey God, for men may kill the body, but God has the power to condemn the soul for all eternity.  The ancient Israelites feared God and in turn suffered great hardship.  They were conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans.  Each new conqueror imposed laws that made honoring God punishable by death.  At one time circumcision was outlawed; Jewish mothers caught circumcising their children were crucified.    Another law made it a requirement for the Jews to make sacrifices to pagan God’s; the many faithful followers who refused were immediately put to death.

                In the sixth century B.C., three young Jewish men feared God more than men.  A powerful King named Nebuchadnezzar resurrected a large golden statue in his own likeness.  On the day it was unveiled he called together the rulers of the provinces and the peoples of every nation; they were commanded to bow down and worship his image.  The multitudes were warned that anyone that refused would be burned alive.  Three faithful believers named, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego refused to obey (choosing to offend the king rather than to anger God.)  They were bound hand and foot and cast into a fiery furnace.  As the king watched he saw a fourth person with them in the flames; somone who protected them; a man who looked like the ‘Son of God.’  When the boys emerged from the furnace unharmed, the king pardoned them and proclaimed the awesome power of the one true and living God.  Much like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, the apostles remained faithful.  Many were beaten, humiliated, imprisoned and tortured because they refused to remain silent.  Eventually, eleven of the twelve disciples were put to death for the sake of the gospel.  According to church history, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.  Andrew, Simon, and Thaddeus were also crucified.  Bartholomew was crucified after having his skin cut off.  Philip was crucified and then stoned to death.  James was beheaded by King Herod.  Thomas was stabbed to death and Mathew was killed with an axe.  James the less was clubbed to death and Mathias was burned alive.  Although they perished for the faith, they are not dead; they are alive with Christ, in his eternal kingdom.

                Every disciple is called to boldly preach the gospel; to speak the truth in love no matter the consequence.  Today many are suffering persecution; in Muslim countries, Christians are being attacked and beheaded; in communist countries they are being imprisoned and tortured.  Yet in the United States, many professing Christians won’t even lean over and tell a stranger that Jesus loves them.  Won’t you reach out in love today?  Won’t you speak up and tell your friends and family about Jesus Christ?  Present the gospel to your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances; for when you honor God, God will honor you; and you will walk in eternal fellowship with Him in His kingdom.

                “Heavenly Father, take away our fear of death and our fear of others; may we fear only You.  May Your words and Your message burn within our hearts and may the gospel freely flow from our mouths.  May we share eternal life with all those who have been persecuted and put to death for their faith in Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to share the truth with others in love.  We thank You Father, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Compassion

JESUS SPEAKING

                And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”  Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.  And He said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”  And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11: 28-37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS   

                Many days earlier, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus had taken ill and was in grave danger.  Despite his great love for Mary and her family, Jesus did not set out for Bethany until Lazarus had been dead for four days; (he purposefully allowed Lazarus to die so he could raise him from the dead.)  When Jesus arrived Mary and Martha were weeping over the loss of their brother.  Jesus was filled with compassion and empathy; his heart was grieved and he began to weep with them.  His tears were not shed for Lazarus (for he knew that he would soon be resurrected); instead, Jesus cried because he shared the pain of those who mourned.  Concerning compassion, God has no equal; He is filled with it.  Compassion is defined asa feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.”

                One day I happened by a man named Eric.  He was sitting outside of a coffee shop, slouching in a chair; he looked more dead than alive.  His skin was pale and clammy and he was sweating profusely.  His clothes were ragged and he badly needed a shower.  I saw his pain and my heart was moved with compassion.  I sat down and began to talk with him.  He informed me that he was withdrawing from heroine and was very sick.  I took him out to eat and gave him some clean clothes.  I also spent some time ministering to him.  Later, as his condition worsened, I took him to the hospital.  I sat with him in the emergency room for hours; I accompanied him in to see the doctor.  He was treated and released.  Before dropping Eric off, I bought him his needed prescription, and made sure he had enough food for the evening.  Nearly a year later, Eric showed up at the coffee shop to say hello.  He told me that after our interaction, he had nearly died and was hospitalized for an extended period of time.  He thanked me for my efforts, and said that without my assistance, he might not be alive.  He was grateful that (“even when his friends had abandoned him”) someone had cared enough to help.  Although Eric thanked me, I reminded him that it was God who deserved the credit; for it was God who had filled my heart with compassion; and in turn; it was the Lord who had moved me to action.  Without God’s Spirit, mercy, and love, I would have kept walking, just like everyone else.

                Jesus Christ is filled with compassion; his followers share his emotions, concerns, and cares.  In turn, he moves human beings to great acts of kindness and mercy.  The closer to God we grow, the more compassion we feel for those who are hurting.  God carries the wounds of the world around with Him every day.   When a person is beaten, the Lord feels every strike.  When someone is sick, our Father feels their pain.  When an individual is hurting, God inspires others to comfort them.  Wherever mercy and love abound, the Spirit of God is at work.  Where there is indifference and a lack of compassion, there is an absence of God within the human heart.  There are so many broken people in this world who need to be loved; the Godless and indifferent pass by the afflicted without stopping to consider them; yet there are many who are compelled by the Holy Spirit to act.  May God’s compassion lead you to action; may you feel what God feels; may you see with His eyes; may you be filled with mercy, and may God use you to relieve the suffering of others.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know You and to be filled with compassion.  Inspire us, that our hearts may be sensitive to those who are hurting.  Give us the strength to be kind to those who are in need.  May we love our families, our friends, and even our fellows.  May we be used to express Your mercy to those who need to know that there is a 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.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit

JESUS SPEAKING

                “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.  Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Mathew 12: 43-45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The human body is a home; it is a resting place for the soul.  Evil spirits can invade the body and cause destruction and suffering; but these harmful spiritual entities can be expelled.  When a demon is exercised, the possessed experience restoration; overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, they begin to live healthy, fulfilling lives.  The dispossessed demons however, dwell in torment; they are only satisfied when they are causing human misery; many demons do return and attempt to re-possess their former victims; their unsavory efforts fail however when they discover the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Yet there are many who deny God after they have been cleansed.  They blaspheme the Lord, and push the Holy Spirit out of their hearts.  When the demons return there is no one to oppose them; they invade the individual, and their once orderly lives are plummeted in to a state of even greater chaos; the evil is overwhelming; the depravity is appalling; and the pain is unimaginable.

                One day in the coffee shop I was telling a woman about the love of God; suddenly a man interjected.  He claimed that God was evil and then began quoting scriptures to support his opinion (he was extremely knowledgeable about the bible.)  He revealed that he had once been a Pastor; he had invited the Holy Spirit in to his heart and had been transformed.  At some point he lost faith; he turned away from his maker; he expelled the Spirit of the Lord from his life; and (I believe) he was immediately possessed by an evil spirit.  His life plummeted in to perversion and depravity; he was living with a woman he professed to be his wife; yet they were both engaging in sexual intercourse with other partners.  He had no job, and no car; he had begun to smoke cigarettes, and was not ashamed to tell me he was getting drunk every night.  The most disturbing phenomenon however, was that he was actively attempting to turn others away from their faith in Jesus Christ. 

                Many are knowingly, or unknowingly, possessed by evil entities.  When the Holy Spirit enters the heart, it expels every demon.  Yet not everyone continues in the Lord.  Many turn away from Him; they kick God out of their hearts and lives.  In turn, they spiral downward in to corruption and depravity.  If you believe, remain in the Lord and never let him go; allow him to protect you from evil spirits; may He always be your guide; may you never lose faith, and may He dwell in your heart forever.

                “Lord, may no demon ever live within us.  May our hearts be pure, and our minds always be satisfied with righteous things.  May we never blaspheme Your name; may we continually serve You in the Spirit.  We pray for those who have made the mistake of departing from Your presence.  May they come to repent and be cleansed of their evil ways.  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.