Archive for April, 2012

Take time to rest

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.  And he said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed in the boat by themselves” (Mark 6: 30-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus sent the apostles out on a short missionary trip.  They were commanded to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to preach the gospel throughout the land of Israel.  They returned with a good report; under his authority they were able to perform many miracles.  The crowds however, had not permitted them much rest.  The Lord saw that they had been wearied by the long hours, and needed to relax.  In turn, he led his disciples in to a deserted place; away from the crowds and the clamor of the ministry.  God desires for his children to have a certain amount of rest.  Rest is an essential part of maintaining physical, mental, and spiritual health.

                Nowhere in the world is work more highly esteemed than in the United States of America.  Many put their careers ahead of their families, their friends, and sadly, even their God.  Seventy hour work weeks at the office are not uncommon.  Currently, because of technology, the problem has gotten worse; people aren’t just working at the office; they are now working everywhere they go.  Many work while they are driving; some work at the gym; some work from home; some even work while on vacation.  All of this work has caused large numbers of people to neglect their need for rest.

                Jesus Christ recognizes that every human being needs time to relax.  Many of us walk through life without taking time out to recuperate.  Some of us have pushed ourselves too hard.  We need to remember that rest is essential, and that relaxation is a gift from the Lord.  Take time out to fellowship with God one on one; relax and allow your mind, body, and spirit to regenerate.  Give God a portion of your day; a time of peace and quiet reflection.  If you would only take the time to listen, in those still moments, you would hear the voice of God speaking to your heart, and you would grow strong.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to rest, and to take time out to fellowship with You; when we neglect our need for relaxation, speak to our hearts and help us to find the time to pursue peace.  In our moments of rest, we ask that You fill us with Your Holy Spirit; speak to our hearts and give us strength and courage to continue doing Your work in this place.  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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The Two Greatest Commandments

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then one of the scribes came and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”  Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, will all your mind, and with all your strength.’  This is the first commandment.  And the second commandment is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  So the scribe said to him, “Well said teacher.  You have spoken the truth.” (Mark 12: 28-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                A teacher of God’s law asked Jesus which commandment was the most important.  Jesus initially responded by saying, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  The Jewish people were unique in that they faithfully believed in and worshiped a single God; an almighty and unseen creator.  The surrounding pagan cultures believed in many Gods (the Greeks for example revered at least twelve primary deities.)  Jesus continued answering the question by declaring the true meaning and purpose of life; all humans were created to fellowship with the one true and Living God; to love Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second law Jesus quoted commanded human beings to love each other in like manner.  The first and the second law are identical; for a complete love for God will lead to a supreme love for others; it is impossible to have one without the other [in 1 John we read, If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.”

                One day I was studying at the coffee shop.  I decided to go for a walk in the alley behind the complex; as I walked I prayed and worshipped God.  I was practicing the most important commandment, which is to “love the Lord [my] God, with all [my] heart, with all [my] soul, will all [my] mind, and with all [my] strength.”  After I had finished drawing near to the Lord in prayer, I headed back to the coffee shop; suddenly, God gave me the opportunity to love Him by loving another human being.  I glanced over at the intersection, and spotted an accident; a truck had flipped over on its side.  I rushed across the street and approached the vehicle.  After clearing away some debris I discovered that a woman was trapped inside.  I got down on my stomach and slid my head and one of my arms between the concrete and the driver’s side window.  I looked up and saw the young woman hanging in place by her seatbelt.  As the tears rolled down her cheeks, I reached out and took hold of her hand.  I calmly and lovingly reassured her that everything was going to be okay.  After a short time, the fire department arrived, and I told her I would continue to pray for her; amazingly, she had the sense of mind to say “thank you.”  I walked away from the accident knowing that I had obeyed the commandments of the Lord.  My love for Him had created the desire and willingness to selflessly love another one of His children.

                There is one God, and His two greatest commandments are actually one in the same (love God and love others.)  Those who draw near to the Lord become like Him.  He is kind; He is compassionate; He is loving; He is merciful; He is truthful; and those who love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength are compelled to love others in like manner.  As you go about your day, connect with God in prayer; read the scriptures; cherish His words and keep them in your heart; contemplate the meaning of His statutes, and think upon His commandments continually.  May obedience be your goal, and faithfulness your foundation.  If you make God the priority in your life, then you will possess a supernatural love for others; a love that is unfading; a love that can never be denied; a love that can only come from the one true and living God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to draw near to You; fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  May our hearts and minds be completely devoted to You and to others.  Give us opportunities throughout the day to express our love for You, in the lives of all those we meet.  Use us Lord to remind the world of Your goodness 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.

A loving Father

JESUS SPEAKING

                When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”  He said, “Yes.”  And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon?  From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”  Peter said to him, “From strangers.”  Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.  Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first.  And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for me and you” (Mathew 17: 24-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                All Jewish men were raised to believe that their lives belonged to God.  In turn, every male over the age of twenty was required to pay an annual duty; the fee would redeem them from God; for one year they belonged to themselves.  The season had arrived for the religious leaders to collect the yearly fees.  Simon (Peter) thought it proper to pay the tax, but Jesus questioned it.  He asked Peter to ponder the manner in which the surrounding nations levied taxes.  During this time, the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of the known world.  The nations they conquered were taxed heavily, while their own citizens (or sons) were free from nearly all forms of taxation.  If the Godless and evil leaders of the earth refused to tax their own people, why would a gracious God impose such duties upon his own subjects?  Peter immediately understood that the temple tax was man-made and not God-made.  Jesus however, agreed to pay the tax so that he would not offend those who did not understand this truth.  Miraculously, God provided the funds for Jesus and Peter.  The Lord revealed to Peter, that He was, and is, far more interested in giving to His children, than He is in taking from them.

                When I was in College, my dad would frequently visit me.  He really enjoyed talking with me over a nice meal.  In turn, we would meet at various restaurants in the area.  My Dad was well aware of my financial situation; I was a ‘broke college student’ who couldn’t afford to eat out.  He was never under the mistaken impression that (when the meal concluded) I would head up to the register to take care of the bill.  On the contrary, my Dad, who had great resources, was always aware that he would need to ‘pay-the-check.’  I am older now; I have graduated from college, but I still travel home for the holidays; and my dad still enjoys taking me out to eat; and yes he still enjoys paying for the meal (despite my abilities and sometimes fervent requests to pay.)  My dad has always given to me; he has always been a provider, because I am his Son, and he loves me.

                If you call Jesus your Lord, you also call God your ‘Father.’  If you are a Son or a Daughter of God, He desperately desires to give you good things.  The world is always asking for something from you, and those who are corrupted continually seek to take and to never give in return.  God however is in need of nothing; He gives liberally and lovingly to all those who ask Him.  Seek the Lord; make your requests known to Him, and He will provide for your needs; because He is not just the Almighty God, but He is also, a Loving Father.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we honor You and we praise Your name.  You are an awesome and mighty God, full of mercy and truth.  We also believe that You are a loving Father, and that we are Your children.  We know that You desire to give us good things; may You continue to provide for all of our needs, that we may better serve You, and worthily magnify Your Holy Name.  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!

Christ’s replacement

JESUS SPEAKING

            “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14: 25-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Lord informed his disciples that he would soon be taken away from them.  In his absence, he promised to send them a replacement; a helper; someone to guide and direct them; a spiritual entity that would remind them of all of his teachings.  After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus ascended in to heaven; having reached his eternal position, he sent the Holy Spirit in to the hearts and minds of every believer (on the day of Pentecost.)  The disciples began to speak in foreign languages; they were given the power and authority to forgive sins; to cast out demons; to raise the dead; and to heal the sick.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was, and is, proof that Jesus Christ did reach his destination; the work of the Spirit today confirms that he is still seated at the right hand of God; a place of honor from which he continues to guide and direct his church.

                In the early 20th century a bold and daring explorer named Roald Amundsen set out to reach the remote poles of the earth.  He succeeded in reaching the South Pole in 1911, and the North Pole in 1926.  As the story goes, during his northern journey, he took along a homing pigeon (homing pigeons mate for life; in turn, when separated from their mates they have a unique ability to return to their nests from anywhere in the world.  Before leaving for the North Pole, Amundsen, not wanting his wife to worry, promised to release the pigeon when he reached his destination; when the bird arrived at its nest in Norway, his wife was elated.  The pigeon was a symbol; a message proclaiming that although the explorer had arrived in a distant land, he was very much alive.

                The Holy Spirit is also a symbol; it is a message and a reminder that Jesus Christ still lives.  Many have received the message, many have not.  Those who have opened their hearts to God’s messenger have acknowledged that Jesus is their Lord and master.  That he is a living God; that He currently guides and directs His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you have never received His gift, go somewhere quiet, and ask God to provide you with the Spirit of truth.  The Lord never withholds this good thing from those who genuinely ask Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son, and that he is seated at Your right hand.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit; guide and direct us; teach us, and remind us of Your ways.  May we be faithful believers; may we never waiver; may we never grow weary, and may we never turn away from Your truth.  May You continue to use us to fulfill Your will in this place, until the time when we will see You, face to face.  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.

Hardened Hearts

JESUS SPEAKING

                And the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they don’t hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

                ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not               perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their hearts are hard of     hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear        with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Mathew 13: 10-17.)

 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The word parable means ‘alongside.’  The earth is a reflection of what exists in heaven; so earthly things and heavenly things run parallel, or ‘alongside’ one another.  It has been said that “a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”  The ears are capable of understanding the earthly significance of a parable; yet only the heart can comprehend the deeper (heavenly) spiritual truth.  Although many people can see with their eyes and hear with their ears, their hearts are hardened; in turn, they will never realize the full power of the Lord’s teachings.

                Many years ago I fought a battle against drug addiction.  After becoming a Christian, I decided to return and visit those who had helped me through that dark time in my life.  During my visit, a man approached me; a patient, whose horrible addiction to cocaine had left his life in ruins.  He came to me because he had heard that I was a believer; he immediately professed a strong faith in Jesus Christ; then he began quoting scripture; amazingly he knew the bible inside and out; yet despite his knowledge of God’s word, he had still chosen to live a life of sin and depravity.  I treated the man with love and respect, but it was obvious that, although he had heard God’s word, his heart had never truly understood it.

                Today, there are many whose hearts are hardened.  They hear but fail to truly understand; they see but cannot perceive the truth of God’s eternal revelation.  May our hearts never be hardened; may we continue to receive the word of God willingly, and with great passion.  The Holy scriptures have the power to reconcile God and man; the power to bring light where there is only darkness; and the power to transform the hearts and minds of all those who are willing to listen.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, open our hearts and minds, that we may comprehend Your truth and understand Your words.  Make Your home within us; may Your Holy Spirit lead us, teach us, and guide us in the ways of righteousness, that we might love others as You have loved 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.

Expecting an increase

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)  ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had no intentions of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth (contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him.)  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and distant return.  Parables (short stories) forced the listeners to think; through contemplation, they could find the deeper spiritual truth.  Every story had characters, and every character represented a real life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went in to a far country to become king symbolized Jesus, who ascended in to heaven (and now reigns with divine authority.)  He too, like the nobleman, promised to return.  The rebellious citizens, who hated the nobleman, exemplified all those who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples (followers.)  In the parable, he gave them each a different amount of money.  The money, likely represents the measure of faith Christ has given every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In our illustration there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and made great efforts to spread the gospel.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  The unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of all his possessions and numbered with the rebels.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; but Jesus sternly expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

                The surface of the earth is clothed in garment of green.  There are thousands of different kinds of trees and everyone is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it; that tree is the mighty redwood;  these behemoth’s can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  The tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt (approximately 1,500 years before Jesus was born) this little redwood was just beginning to sprout.  These trees are so large, it is difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  Redwood seeds are just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow to be large, some remain small, but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men by the hands of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

                Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our king returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given him.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of your great king and mighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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.

Who can you trust?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8: 46-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No human being can live a completely sinless life.  Jesus however, being the Son of God, never once indulged in iniquity.  He was so confident of his own moral perfection, that he publicly challenged any willing soul to accuse him of sin.  In turn, his numerous enemies watched and waited, hoping he would make some grave error.  Despite continuous inspection and constant observation, he spoke plainly and publicly.  No one, not a single person, could find him guilty of sin.  In fact, at his trial, Pontius Pilate actually said of Jesus, “I find no fault in this man.”  Still he was crucified.  Trusting a sinless man makes more sense than trusting a sinful one.

                Throughout history there have been many self-proclaimed prophets; men who asked for trust, but were themselves untrustworthy; none of these liars ever dared place their own personal lives under examination.  Joseph Smith for example (false prophet and founder of the Mormon faith) claimed to be God’s chosen messenger.  He lived a life of sexual debauchery.  He married many women without telling his first wife Emma.  He also married other men’s wives in secret, and engaged in wife-swapping; he even went so far as to marry both a mother and her daughter (an offense punishable by death, according to God’s law.)  Unlike Jesus who invited others to scrutinize his life, Joseph Smith viciously sought to keep his sins a secret.  After being kicked out Missouri, Joseph and his followers went to the town of Nauvoo Illinois; the local newspaper began printing articles about his many wives and his sexual indiscretions; in June of 1844, fearing he might be exposed, Joseph ordered his followers to destroy the printing press; they broke in to the paper office, dragged the machine in to the street, and smashed it with sludge hammers.  Smith was arrested for this crime and later killed in jail.  

                Unlike Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ had nothing to hide; his life was without sin; he never lied, never exploited anyone, and never abused his position of authority to indulge in selfish pleasures.  Instead he served others, loved others, and brought the word of God to all those who were willing to listen.  Only Jesus Christ can be trusted; only our messiah is worthy of praise and honor.  Won’t you put your faith and trust in him today?  Obey him and follow him, and he will lead you in to eternal life; you will know true freedom, and you will take hold of the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’

                “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You and we thank You for Your Son.  He is sinless and completely trustworthy.  Help us to submit to his leadership; may he be at the center of our lives.  May we be more like him, and may we trust him with our whole hearts.  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.