Archive for May, 2012

The simple and the intelligent

JESUS SPEAKING

                At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, because it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the son, and the one to whom the son wills to reveal him” (Mathew 11: 25-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the Jewish culture, youth was often associated with weakness and stupidity.  So much so, that when a group of Jewish men gathered together, they spoke in order of age; the oldest spoke first and the youngest spoke last.  They believed that with age came wisdom.  Jesus however, corrected this commonly held belief.  Wisdom concerning the messiah and God’s plan of salvation could not be attained through many years of careful study; instead, the truth could only be received as a gift from God.  Those who thought themselves intelligent were blinded by pride and self-reliance; the simple and the ignorant however saw clearly the value of God’s grace and the blessing of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

                Sigmund Freud pioneered what we might consider the modern field of psychology.  In fact today, he is remembered as one of the most intelligent men who has ever lived.  Yet most people don’t know that at one point in his career he promoted cocaine as beneficial for curing many common ailments.  He even encouraged his close acquaintances and compatriots to indulge in its use.  When one of his dear friends became horribly addicted to the drug, he saw the dangers of cocaine and anxiously recalled his previous promotions; he carried the guilt of his friend’s continual drug dependence for the rest of his life.  Some of the most well educated and intelligent people are often the most horribly deceived.

                The truth is a gift from The Lord (it is not something that can be earned.)  Intelligence, although beneficial and extremely useful, can sometimes blind those who trust in it more than God (the intellect frequently remains in opposition to simple faith and practical wisdom.)  God yearns for His children to trust in Him completely.  Those who are simple, unlearned, and unwise, are often the first to see the true value of God’s mercy and grace.  Won’t you receive the gospel today as a little child?  Won’t you believe with your whole heart?  Won’t you allow God to take control of your life?  If you place your faith in Jesus Christ you will come to know the truth; and you will be smarter than the most well educated man, and wiser than the greatest king. 

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we be as little children.  May we remain simple, and may we completely trust in, and rely upon You.  We pray for those who are intelligent and wise in their own thinking; those who have faith only in the achievements of men.  Reveal the truth to them, that they may come to humbly receive Your mercy and grace.  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 real Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

            And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of me” (Mathew 11: 2-6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            After baptizing Jesus, John came to believe that Jesus was the messiah they had been waiting for.  He, like so many in Israel believed the Messiah would set them free from their oppressors.  Everyone was waiting for Jesus to usher in an earthly kingdom that would put an end to Roman Rule.  John (who had been imprisoned by Herod) was growing impatient with Jesus and sent messengers to him to ask if he truly was the messiah.  Jesus simply responded by quoting an Old Testament prophecy that stated the messiah would cleanse lepers, heal the blind, raise the dead and preach to the poor.  Jesus wanted John to know he was accomplishing all of these tasks.  The Lord finally addressed John’s impatient heart, saying, “blessed are those who are not offended because of me.”  Jesus had not met John’s expectations; John had expected a conquering messiah, not a messiah that would conquer sin through crucifixion (the lord was encouraging John to accept him as he was.) Many today, like John, have an inaccurate view of Jesus Christ.  Knowing the real Jesus is essential to truly following him.

            Early on in my relationship with God I made the decision that I could no longer call myself a Christian unless I actually knew who Jesus Christ was.  I knew I had to read the bible; I also knew it was going to change and challenge my beliefs.  In my heart, I had an unclear picture of God.  I chose to let go of what I thought I knew in order to grab hold of the truth.  As I read, I began to know God personally and accurately; instead of being disappointed, my heart was lifted up with wonder and amazement.  The real God is far greater than any God I could have ever imagined.

              Do you know Jesus Christ?  Do you know his words, or are you holding on to your own expectations.  Have you invented a Jesus for yourself, or have you come to know the real Jesus?  Read his words, get familiar with his works, his message, his truth, and I promise, you will never be disappointed; instead, you too will find something more amazing than anything you have ever known, and your life will never be the same.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know the real Jesus.  We want to know Your Son and his message.  Implant his words within our hearts and help us to be his disciples, that we might be pleasing to You Father.  Help us to let go of our fear of the truth, and give us a hunger and thirst to know our messiah; your gift to us all.  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 Sons and Daughters of God

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14: 7.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He is God in human form; he was born of a virgin and walked among men; as God’s only son, he directly reflects the mannerisms and characteristics of our Eternal Father.  He performed all of the works that only God could accomplish; he forgave sins; he healed the sick; he even raised the dead.  Those who desire to see God need look no further than Jesus Christ [Note:  In another portion of scripture, the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father; Jesus replied, “Those who have seen me, have seen the Father.”]

                Whenever I fly home for Christmas, I spend a great deal of time with my nieces and nephews.  Recently I saw a picture of my Dad as a child; the resemblance between him and my nephew Seth was absolutely astonishing (they looked like twins.)  I am also amazed whenever I hear my little nephew Austin speak; I can hear my sisters voice in every word he utters.  To some degree or another, children are a reflection of their parents.  Physical characteristics and mannerisms are passed down from one generation to another.  Jesus Christ, being God’s Son, is not only similar to his Father, he is an exact reflection of Him.  When Jesus turned a meager meal in to enough to feed five thousand, we saw that God can create something from nothing.  When Jesus calmed a storm, we learned that God controls nature itself.  When he displayed compassion, we discovered that God is compassionate.  Because Jesus lived a sinless life, we are now aware of the sinless nature of God.  Because he did all the works of God, we can confidently call him the ‘Son of God.’

                Today, those who desire to see God need look no further than His Son, Jesus Christ.  Although Jesus is seated at God’s right hand in heaven, he has left his body behind.  His body is the church.  Those who have received the gospel are the sons and daughters of God.  We are called to continue His work in this place.  When others see us, they should see our Father.  We are called to be generous; to be loving; to be compassionate; to be pure, and to be perfect, “Even as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.”  May you submit to the will of God; may you do His works; and may you inherit the eternal riches He has promised to all of His children.

                “Holy Father, we thank You for Your son.  He has taught us so much about You.  We desire to be Your sons and daughters as well.  Strengthen us and give us the power to accomplish Your work in this place.  May others see our good works and glorify Your name.  May we bring honor to You; may our lives be a reflection of Your goodness.  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.

Saving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

                He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come to call sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 27-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Tax collectors in Israel were Jewish citizens who had ‘sold-out’ to the Roman Empire, and turned against their own people.  The Roman taxes were severe, and tax collectors earned their living by over-taxing the people; in turn, they were passionately despised.  The religious leaders were enraged because Jesus was eating with such sinners.   Jewish meals were extremely intimate affairs; those who dined together dipped in to the same bowls and drank from the same cups.  Most Jews were very careful who they ate with, because they falsely believed that sin could be transferred from one person to another through the sharing of food.  The Son of God however, was not concerned with being contaminated by the sins of others.  Instead, his purity was infecting and cleansing the evil hearts of those who dined with him.  The messiah’s purpose was to seek and to save the lost; to bring light in to the lives of those who dwelled in darkness; he came to heal the sick and to restore to fellowship, those who had turned away from the paths of righteousness.

                In 1464 a block of Marble weighing nearly 9 tons was shipped to the Cathedral of the Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy.  From it, an artist was commissioned to carve a massive sculpture of a young King David.  It is said the artist abandoned the project because the piece of marble contained too many flaws (or veins—veins in marble are weaker than the surrounding stone, which can cause it to crack and break.)  So the defective block sat in the yard for nearly a decade; until another artist was commissioned to continue the work; apparently he also foresaw problems with the veining and walked away from the project.  The scarcely carved stone block was again pushed to the back of the yard where the sun, wind, and rain beat down on it for nearly 25 years.  Then in 1501 a 29 year old sculptor named Michelangelo looked at the stone with optimistic intentions.  To him, it wasn’t just some aged block of marble taking up space; neither did he reject it as a defective throw away, fit only for the trash heap.  Unlike the other sculptors, Michelangelo saw the giant slab, not as it was, but as it could be.  He accepted the commission to complete the work because, from it, he believed that he could create a masterpiece.  In 1504, after nearly 3 years of work, the Statue of David was completed; immediately it was marveled over; even the harshest of critics were astonished by its timeless majesty.  Today, the statue of David resides in Florence Italy, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful marble sculptures ever created.

                Like Michelangelo, Jesus Christ is a master craftsman; his purpose is not just to take good people and make them better, but to take the worst people and transform them in to divine works of art.  As followers of Christ, our duty is to reach out to those who have been rejected.  Rather than turning our backs on sinners, we are called to embrace them in love.  We must not see sinners for who they are, but rather, for who they might become (with the assistance, love, and attention of an all powerful creator.)  Reach out to the lost; make friends with the weak; dive in to the trash heap and pull out those who have been discarded.  He has sent us in to the world to find the lost, and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Are you willing to be an instrument in the hands of God; a tool He can use to accomplish a masterpiece?

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we seek out those who are sick.  Give us a heart for the outcast, that we would see possibility where others see only failure.  We lay our lives at Your feet; may we be Your messengers; may we bring the good news of salvation and reconciliation to all those who dwell in darkness.  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.  

Blessings and cursings

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you […] for the Son of Man’s sake […] for indeed your reward is great in heaven […] But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6: 20-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Blessings and cursings were an intimate part of the Jewish culture.  Many Jews would bring their children to the rabbi’s for a formal blessing.  A blessing is a prophetic profession of some impending future good in an individual’s life.  A cursing however, foretells of some future calamity.  The blessings Jesus pronounced upon the crowds depended entirely upon their reaction to his message.  Those who chased after the passing pleasures of this life would ultimately enter in to unending sorrow.  Those who chose to deny their own desires in order serve God and others would eventually inherit eternal rewards.  Embracing sacrifice is a requirement for every true believer; some sacrifices may include: wealth, a career, power, property, selfish pleasures, sinful indulgences, and even a good reputation.  Because the path to peace with God includes enduring much present pain (self-denial), the majority of individuals will continue to reject the gospel message entirely.

                In order to understand this scripture, we need only look at the modern day credit card crisis.   Americans possess more personal debt than any time in history.  The problem is the direct result of extreme self-indulgence.  When a person goes out shopping and they can’t afford something, many will pay with a credit card to avoid denying themselves some pleasure.  But paying for things with money you don’t have doesn’t make the pain disappear, it simply postpones it.  Eventually the credit company is going to come looking for their money; at which point those who have selfishly indulged their fleshly appetites will endure the suffering they so desperately attempted to avoid.

                Many people have spent an entire lifetime avoiding pain and indulging in pleasure; the pain however hasn’t been eliminated, it has simply been deferred.  Eventually they are going to have ‘pay the check.’  Chasing after wealth, material possessions, careers, food, and even a good reputation will lead to an eternity of pain.  Self-denial is the way to inherit eternal blessings.  Volunteer work, giving excess money away to the needy, spending time listening to others, taking the time to evangelize, visiting widows, orphans, the elderly, working with someone caught in an addiction, caring for the sick, giving people rides, are all just a few of the ways we can deny ourselves in this life.  Where can you deny yourself to better serve others?  What do you have in excess?  Is it time; money; knowledge?  What can you give away?  When you deny yourself you begin to serve the Living God, and in turn, in the coming kingdom, you will receive the blessings of eternal life.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to willingly endure pain and to give away our abundance; may we refuse our own desires and pleasures to fulfill Your purposes.  May we deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow You.  Reveal to us where we can be more selfless; where we can be more giving; and where we can be more loving.  We honor 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.

Choosing to live

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Mathew 5: 30) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Sin is defined as any act of willful disobedience toward God.  Sin is very serious because it separates us from our Heavenly Father.  Because God loves his children, He desires for us to let go of our sinful practices, that we may be reunited with Him.  Any grievous sins, such as fornication, adultery, lying, stealing, lewdness, etc, must be abandoned.  In order that we may live, we must cut away these portions of our dead flesh.

                In April of 2003, an experienced mountain climber named Aaron Ralston was hiking alone in a remote mountain pass in Utah.  While maneuvering through one of the crevices, a giant boulder dislodged and pinned his arm against the canyon wall; for days he attempted to free himself.  He had not told anyone where he was going, so he knew that no one would be looking for him.  When he had finally run out of water, Aaron was faced with a terrible choice […] He could severe his arm with an ill-equipped pocket knife; or he could keep his arm and simply lay down and die.  The only thing standing between Aaron and the rest of his life were two bones, several muscles, and some tendons in his forearm.  Aaron chose to break both bones in his arm; he then proceeded to saw through his own flesh with his dull knife.  After nearly 127 hours of confinement, he left his severed arm behind and climbed out of the canyon.  Until that day, Aaron had lived selfishly.  He had been a ‘loner’ who continually pushed others away.  Shortly after his experience he came to believe that the boulder had been waiting for him his entire life (that it was destined to transform him.)  He said, “I left my hand behind in that canyon, but I gained my life back.”  His experience allowed him to see what was truly important.  He began to put the emphasis on personal relationships; he eventually married and started a family.  He now travels the world telling other people about his inspiring story.

                Like Aaron, there are boulders in our lives; giant rocks that pin us down and keep us from knowing complete freedom.  If we have entered again in to serious sin, and we have been separated from God then we have some cutting to do.  Cut away the dead flesh, so that you may live.  Ask God to reveal to you any sinful practices that have crept back in to your life and He will.  How you respond to what you find, will determine your eternal destiny.  May God help us all to make the right choice.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we recognize that sin can cause us to become separated from You.  We know that we have received forgiveness through Your Son, but we recognize our responsibility to refrain from willful acts of disobedience.  If we have become defiant, then please give us the strength to put these sins to death, that we may eternally continue to live for You.  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.

Look to Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING                

                “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”  This he said signifying by what death he would die.  The people answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12: 32-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                While addressing his followers, Jesus prophesied concerning the manner in which he would die.  He would be crucified, and the cross would come to symbolize healing, forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  Those who look to it in faith receive everlasting life and the free gift of salvation; those who refuse to accept Christ’s sacrifice continue under condemnation, and will eventually face eternal judgment.                     

                In the Old Testament, God lead the children of Israel out of slavery and bondage in Egypt.  They passed through the Red sea unharmed, and they entered the desert.  While in the desert many Hebrews rebelled against God and the authority of Moses.  Angered by their arrogance, God sent poisonous snakes in to their midst to bite them.  Moses fervently approached the Lord and begged Him to show mercy.  Moved with compassion, God told Moses to sculpt a brass snake and to fasten it to a long pole; he was then told to raise the pole up in the middle of the camp so everyone could see it.  The Israelites were instructed that if they looked upon the snake in faith, they would be healed from their venomous bites (simply put:  look at the snake and you will live; refuse to look and you will die.)  Jesus Christ was also lifted up on the cross for everyone to see; those who look to him in faith receive eternal life; those who refuse, experience judgment and eternal separation from God.  Jesus said in John 3: 14-16, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”

                The cross has always been a powerful symbol.  It has the power to bring light in to the lives of those who walk in darkness.  It has the power to heal and the power to reconcile sinful man with a pure and Holy God; it has the power to grant eternal life to those who would but look to it in faith.  May you look upon the cross and receive the free gift of salvation.  May you receive the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins.  May you be ‘reborn’ and may God guide you as you travel toward his eternal kingdom.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your wonderful plan of salvation.  As we look to the cross in faith, we receive Your sacrifice and we embrace our new lives with You.  Forgive us our sins through the blood of Christ Jesus.  Grant us eternal life.  Heal our hearts and minds; help us to be ‘children of light;’ that others might see our good works and honor You.  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.