Archive for August, 2012

Religous Hypocrites

JESUS SPEAKING

            Then he said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.  These will receive great condemnation” (Mark 12: 38-40.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Jesus warned his children to be wary of the Pharisees who had been abusing their positions of religious authority in order to amass large quantities of wealth.  Outwardly they appeared Godly; they wore the robes of holy men; they made long prayers in public for all to see; yet privately they would seize every opportunity to abuse those who were helpless.  Jesus said that they “devour(ed) widow’s houses.”  Widows were very easily exploited.  As a mandatory condition for marriage, a man had to build a house for his bride.  When the husband passed away, the wife would inherit the home.  With no source of income, widows would often be forced to sell their homes in order to survive.  Many of the religious Pharisees who outwardly claimed to be Godly would exploit the widow’s circumstances; paying far less for the property than it was actually worth.  Many, including these widows were victimized because they trusted in the outward appearance of Godliness.  Jesus warned that such vile individuals would one day be judged for their misdeeds.

            Many years ago, I was working as a sales representative for a tile company.  I had recently become a Christian, and the other employees were aware of my conversion.  Suddenly, in walked a man who was the Pastor of a world famous church located just up the street.  He and his wife made a small purchase; he then pulled around to the back to pick it up.  As I headed to the loading dock with the sales slip, one of my co-workers (who was not a Christian) contemptuously remarked, “Isn’t that your pastor friends car; the one that costs over a hundred thousand dollars?”  Sure enough; there it sat, washed and waxed; in all of its splendor.  I felt contempt, anger, and sadness in my heart; knowing that he had likely been using God’s name for his own personal profit.  [Concerning judgment, the words of Christ were eventually realized; a few years later, this man and his family lost everything.  His mega church, with all of its expensive buildings, statues, and complexes went bankrupt; the church dissolved in few short months, and the entire establishment was sold to another institution.]  

            In his earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ staunchly warned his followers to avoid hypocrites; especially religious hypocrites who would seek to exploit others and to use God’s name for personal profit.  As Christians we are not to be deceived by the superficial appearance of Godliness.  Rather, we must test everyone to see if what they do is truly of God.  If what a pastor, a teacher, or a preacher says on stage is not synonymous with who they are in private, then it is likely that they are Pharisees and cannot be trusted.  

            “Lord Heavenly Father, please reveal to us any areas in our lives where we are being hypocritical, and help us to change.  May we always accurately represent You in every area of our lives.  May we be loving, giving, and caring, in public and in private.  Help us to recognize false teachers and religious hypocrites, that we may guide others away from them and toward You.  We love You Father, and we praise You, and we ask and we pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Fear not, the Lord is with you

JESUS SPEAKING

            Now it happened, on a certain day, that he got into a boat with his disciples.  And he said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  And they launched out.  But as they sailed he fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him and awoke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  Then he arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.  But he said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?  For he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him!” (Luke 8: 22-25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Sea of Galilee is the lowest (below sea level) freshwater lake in the world.  Because it is right next to the Mediterranean Sea, warm and cool air meet, creating fierce storms that arise almost instantaneously.  Jesus and his disciples were crossing this sea when a violent squall arose and threatened to capsize their vessel.  As the Lord peacefully slept in the back of the boat his disciples began to panic.  Fear had caused them to forget who was riding with them; neither could they recall that just moments earlier Jesus had said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  After being roused from sleep the Lord calmed the wind and the waves and asked them, “Where is your faith?”  Fear and faith are natural enemies.  The presence of one often signals the absence of the other (and vice versa.)  People become fearful because they lose faith in the God who dwells within them; a God who will never leave them, nor forsake them.  As David wrote in Psalm 23, many years ago, “I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.”

            Some time ago, I had many interactions with a man who frequented the coffee shop where I studied.  He often appeared to be under a great deal of stress; he seemed fearful, upset, unsettled, and distracted.  One day, he leaned over to me and said, “Can you give a scripture, or something from the bible that will help me to remember that ‘God will never give me more than I can handle?’”  I recalled for him the story of Jesus calming the storm.  The disciples feared that they were going to capsize and drown, but God kept them from perishing.  I told the man that the size of the waves and the level of desperation were unimportant; rather what truly mattered was who he had in the boat with him.  I said that if Jesus was in his heart, he would always stay afloat.

            Today, our lives are like vessels floating on the sea.  Sometimes the seas are tranquil, and sometimes the seas are stormy; those who invite Jesus to accompany them on their journey will receive the promise; for the Lord has vowed that every true believer will make it to the other side.  No one traveling with the Son of God will slip beneath the waves.  He will calm the wind; He will still the seas; He will give you a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”  When you feel fear, remember His promises; and you will finish the race; you will keep the faith; and you will live, because the Lord is with you.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that Your Son would guide us; that he accompany us on our journey through life.  Protect us from the storms that might arise along the way; increase our faith; may we never fear knowing that You are with us.  Give us Your love, Your peace, and Your wisdom.  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.

Jesus is the only way

JESUS SPEAKING

                Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 7-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the days of Jesus sheepherding was a very common profession.  A good shepherd would effortlessly love and care for his sheep.  Most shepherds were continually concerned with feeding and watering their livestock; they also fended off hungry predators, and made sure to keep the sheep free from dangerous parasites.  Over time, the sheep would come to trust in and rely upon the one who guided them and loved them.  After many days and nights of grazing in the open fields, the shepherd would need to rest; he would return home and put his animals in a pen where he knew they would be safe; the pen prevented them from wandering off; it also protected them from hungry predators.  Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to gather together his sheep, and to lead them to safety.  The sheep pen is an illustration that represents heaven; a place free from predators, where all of God’s children will one day dwell safely in peace.  The Lord also proclaimed that there is just one way to enter the Kingdom of God.  Only those who have faith in and follow Jesus Christ can truly be saved.

                Today, flying is a common mode of transportation.  In recent years, many terrorists have utilized airplanes to commit atrocious acts of violence against many innocent people.  In an effort to prevent these attacks from occurring, airport security has become appropriately severe.  There is only one way in, and one way out.  Those seeking to enter through the security checkpoints must have proper identification.  No license, or government identification, means no entry.  This rule is without exception (a nice smile, a kind face, and an appealing excuse are of no benefit.)  God’s kingdom is similar in many respects.  There is one way to enter; only those who have faith in Jesus Christ can be admitted.  If someone has been a kind and generous person for 85 years, but is not a child of God, they lack the proper identification.  No non-believing Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic, for example will be allowed entry; for they lack the one thing needed to fellowship with the Eternal Father; his one and only Son.

                Jesus Christ is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to lead his sheep into everlasting life.  Many have heard his words and have received Him.  Still many others have rejected him entirely.  Despite the differences between them, the faithful and the unfaithful share in this; they will both one day stand at the gate; however, only those who called Jesus master and Lord will be able to enter God’s eternal Kingdom. 

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to continue in the faith.  We have come to trust in You fully; lead us Lord; teach us; provide for all of our needs.  May we be Your sheep, and may You be our Shepherd; may we know Your voice and never be deceived.  Protect us from those who would seek to do us harm and inspire us to reach out to those who are lost.  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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