Archive for October, 2012

Help Wanted

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus went around to all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he spoke to his disciples saying, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mathew 9: 35 – 38.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Vast numbers of people had traveled great distances to be healed, to see miracles, and to hear Jesus speak.  As he looked upon the sea of lost and broken souls, his heart swelled with compassion.  These men and women, having been denied the truth for so long, had become spiritually malnourished.  Many weary souls eagerly devoured the gospel; and with it they received salvation through faith in God’s only Son.  Jesus, realizing the enormous task that lay ahead, instructed his disciples to pray that the Father would send more workers in to the fields; that countless others might be delivered from death.

                Many in the world today are unfamiliar with agricultural practices; yet during the time of Christ, farming was a close and intimate part of daily life.  Modern farmers often utilize large machines to gather their crops; ancient farmers however, had to harvest their wheat by hand.  When the grain had ripened, nearly every member of the household was needed to aid in collecting the produce.  Often even an entire family wasn’t enough; farmers would then hire seasonal laborers to assist them in accomplishing their goals [Note:  A proper harvest was such an essential part of first century living, that even warring armies would call a truce during the reaping season; the soldiers could return home to work in the fields; when the harvest had concluded, the men would resume their armed conflicts.]

                Today, there are billions of lost souls wandering the earth; seemingly unaware that God has sent His only Son that they might have eternal life.  Those who believe and receive the message are in turn called to be messengers.  True Christians must share in the labors of Jesus Christ, by delivering the gospel to those who are starving for truth.  The fields are vast, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  We must pray to God to send more workers to aid in gathering up His crop.  As you labor for Christ, may compassion fill your heart; may love reign in your soul; and may God use you to convey His message to those who are in need.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we share in Your labors; may we be filled with mercy and love; may we continually seek to deliver the gospel message to those who are perishing.  We pray that You would send more workers in to the fields; that Your harvest might be plentiful.  May the lost be found, may sinners repent, and may salvation be received by those who believe.  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 impartial

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God” (Luke 16: 14-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                What the world considers valuable and what God considers valuable are often in direct opposition.  Most esteem beauty, wealth, fame, power, and intellect above Godliness, compassion, love, humility, and genuine mercy.  The Pharisees (religious leaders) hearts were wicked; they demonstrated extreme partiality toward the powerful, wealthy, affluent, and well-educated.  Jesus however, fellowshipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors; he reached out to the lame, and befriended many outcasts.  He refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality; rather, he continually honored and esteemed only those things God deemed worthy.

                In the Old Testament, we read of a time when it became necessary to anoint a new king to rule over the nation of Israel.  The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to travel to Bethlehem, where he was instructed to choose a king from among the Sons of Jesse.  Upon arriving, Samuel laid eyes upon Eliab (one of the eldest sons); Eliab was mature, healthy, and strong.  The prophet, being mislead by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!”  God replied to Samuel, saying, “Do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  After God had rejected seven of Jesse’s eldest sons, it appeared there were none left.  Samuel asked if all his Sons were present; Jesse replied, “Well there remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”  When David, the youngest and weakest of Jesse’s son’s appeared, God said, “Arise and anoint him, for this is the one.”  [In time it became clear why God chose David; he was wise and loved God with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.]

                In all cultures it is common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to highly esteem such attributes is to oppose God.  The apostle James wrote, “For if there should come in to your assembly a man with Gold rings [and also] a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”  Therefore, every true believer must make an effort to avoid valuing worldly things.  With God’s help, we can be impartial; we can see through His eyes; we can become lovers of truth; men and women who adore kindness, cherish compassion, and embrace mercy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, guide us, and lead us in to the paths of righteousness.  Give us clean hearts, that we might avoid partiality, and love what is truly good.  May we turn away from worldly pursuits, and walk in Your ways; may we love what You love; may we value what You value; and may we live as You have lived.  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.

Compassion is Godliness

 

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answered him saying:  “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he looked upon him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and, and took care of him.  The next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend when I come next time, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 29 – 37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Samaria consisted of a community of pagan individuals living within the borders of the nation of Israel (just north of Jerusalem); as non-Hebrews they frequently engaged in immorality and idolatry; for this reason they were despised by most religious Israelites.  In fact, when traveling, many orthodox Jews would contemptuously journey around Samaria rather than through it.  After Jesus had confirmed the importance of loving one’s neighbor, he was asked to define what constituted a neighbor.  His reply came in the form of a story; in the narrative a man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road; two religious Jews passed by, without stopping to help (one a priest, and the other a supposed man of God.)  Soon after, a Samaritan happened by, and his heart was filled with compassion.  In order to preserve the man’s life, he gave of his time, his money, and his resources.  He showed true mercy and great generosity.  Many today, like the priest and the Levite are so concerned with what lies ahead that they fail to stop and help those who are hurting and in need of assistance.

 

                Recently, during a cross-country meet in Minnesota, a young man named Mark Paulauskas was injured in the first half-mile of a two mile race.  He had been spiked by another runners cleats (a wound that would eventually require 20 stitches and a walking boot.)  As Paulauskas cried out in agony, most of the other runners passed him by; they were focused more on the finish line than on the pain of an ailing opponent.  Yet, one individual heard his cries and was moved with compassion.  A runner named Josh Ripley willingly abandoned his vision of victory in order to stop and help; without hesitation he picked up Mark Paulauskas and carried him a half-mile back to the starting line.  After handing his wounded competitor in to the arms of the coaches, Josh Ripley sprinted off in to the wilderness to complete his race.  Although he did not win, he was victorious in the eyes of God.

                Our fleshly nature commonly causes us to become so focused on what lies ahead that we ignore those who are right beside us.  If we are not careful we can pass by those who are hurting, and ignore the call of God to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’  The world is cold and apathetic; yet in the midst of indifference, there are those who show great compassion and mercy; they give selflessly; they love unconditionally; they are examples of God’s Spirit in action; they are followers of Jesus Christ.  They are friends; they are family; they are neighbors; they are Christians.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always show sympathy toward those who are hurting and in need.  May we be relieved of indifference and filled with mercy.  May nothing ever be more important than compassion, nor greater than love.  Fill us to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit, that we might be examples of Your warmth in a world that is cold and apathetic.  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.

Making Restitution

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; everyone lives within a social structure; a community made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationships with others are a reflection of our relationship with God; when we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Lord; if we have cheated anyone, we have also cheated our God.  If we lie, slander, and hate another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century many Jewish families journeyed long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins and to be restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus has taught us that we are to first be reconciled to our neighbor; only then, are we permitted to approach God in order to honor Him with our sacrifices (and receive atonement for our sins.)  This commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential part of true Christianity today.

                When I came to California over 7 years ago, I began to work a 12 step program; a program whose original founding members were almost entirely Christian; therefore the formation of the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found within the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.  After becoming a Christian myself, I came to realize that Christ’s command to make amends likely influenced the formation of the 8th and the 9th steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all;” the ninth step reads, Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I have continued to make amends to those I have harmed.  I have made restitution; I have paid off nearly every delinquent debt, and I have asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every debt paid and every apology given, I have felt my spirit drawing ever nearer to my teacher, my Lord, my God, and my friend.

                Today, if you desire to grow closer to God, you might consider examining the mistakes of your past; if you have stolen from anyone, you are obligated to approach that person and make restitution.  If you have lied, and your lies have caused hardship, you must return and speak the truth.  If your mistreatment of others has created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian; frequently, the pathway toward a more intimate fellowship with God in the future, leads through the sins of our past.  We have all sinned, but what we do with those sins will determine whether we go deeper with the Lord, or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have sinned against; inspire us to approach them and to make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  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.

In Spirit and in Truth

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ encountered extreme opposition while preaching near the city where he had been raised.  Many had seen him grow from infancy in to adulthood; they were very familiar with his family; and that familiarity created in their hearts great disrespect and disdain.  The Son of God therefore prophesied that they would reject him and that, in turn, he would bring the message to complete strangers.  Jesus referenced two Old Testament prophets who endured similar experiences.  Elijah and Elisha were messengers of God who were rejected by many of their fellow Hebrews; therefore, God used them to bless foreigners.  Elijah for instance, pronounced a three year drought upon the nation of Israel due to the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time Elijah stayed with a poor widow woman in a foreign land where God miraculously provided for all of their needs.

                The Lord’s initial priority was to bring the gift of salvation to his own countrymen.  The majority of them however rejected Jesus as their messiah; therefore God, in His wisdom, offered the kingdom to anyone who was willing to receive it.  Paul was a disciple who boldly preached the gospel throughout the ancient world; he planted numerous churches, and was used to bring many to the faith.  Yet his love for his fellow Jews never waned.  Upon entering a city, he would first venture in to the synagogue to preach; after he was rejected, he would take the message to the gentiles (non-jews) (who were more than eager to receive the Holy Spirit.)  God’s plan has always been to use his Son to bless all nations, and tribes, and tongues; because Jesus Christ was rejected, those who are strangers have been lovingly received.

                Today membership within the body of Christ is open to all; there are no limitations; there are no ungodly requirements; true faith is not bound by race, language, or ethnicity.  God in His wisdom has chosen to make salvation available to everyone.  No longer can one nation claim God for themselves.  He has ceased to reside solely amongst the descendents of a single individual; nor, does He dwell within sacred buildings and religious institutions.  He cannot be worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem; instead He lives within the hearts and minds of those who have received Him (for God is seeking men and women who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”)  May you receive the Lord and be blessed; may His peace overwhelm you; may His love possess you; that you may be the man or woman God has called you to be.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your plan of salvation.  We thank You that all who desire to know You today can.  May we receive more of Your Holy Spirit.  May we draw near to You with our hearts and with our minds.  May we worship You, honor You, and praise You with every word that we speak, and with every action that we take.  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.