Archive for December, 2012

Idolatry

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.  And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothing.  But woe to those who are pregnant and nursing babies in those days.  And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be” (Mathew 24: 15 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Throughout Christ’s ministry he spoke of a day when great destruction and tribulation would befall the nation of Israel, and the world; (the prophet Daniel also spoke of such a day.)  In the future there will be an unmistakable sign preceding the tribulation of all nations.  This sign will appear within the reconstructed temple itself.  An evil man will erect an object, image, or shrine in the ‘Holy of Holy’s;’ an abomination that many will come to worship in the place of God.  Deep within the heart of every human being, there is a pedestal; a peak; a position of absolute supremacy; a space reserved for what every person loves the most.  When the Lord occupies this position He is in His rightful place.  Those who idolize their creator also walk in genuine fellowship with Him.  Many however, replace God with other things; and in so doing, they commit the sin of idolatry; a sin that always precedes some form of imminent destruction.

                In the Old Testament there lived a rich and powerful ruler named Belshazzar who dwelled within the seemingly impenetrable city of Babylon (the walls of this city were rumored to be 300 feet high and 80 feet thick.)  His Father Nebuchadnezzar had sacked Jerusalem decades earlier, stealing the gold and silver artifacts from within the Jewish temple.  These relics sat inside of the Babylonian treasury for years, until one evening, Belshazzar held a great feast.  We read, “Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple […] and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them; they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5: 3 – 4).  Belshazzar did not worship the living God; rather he preferred precious metals.  That night a haunting vision appeared before him.  The king asked Daniel the prophet to interpret its meaning.  Daniel prophesied saying “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold […] and the God who holds your breath in his hand and owns all of your ways you have not glorified […] Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”  The sentence for his idolatry was carried out that very night; an invading army conquered the city and killed King Belshazzar.  [Note:  From the historical accounts it is believed that a giant river flowed through the city of Babylon.  While Belshazzar was feasting, the Persian King Darius used a dam to divert the flow of the mighty river; his army then cleverly followed the dry riverbed under the giant walls, and conquered the vibrant metropolis in a single night.]

                Idolatry is dangerous and inevitably leads to destruction.  Those who desire preservation must avoid putting anything in the place of God.  The Lord must come first; before money, a career, a relationship, a business, or a hobby, etc.  When we elevate God into His rightful position in our hearts, then we are truly free; when He is the most important person in our lives, then everything falls in to place.  Love God and you will find peace; put Him first and you will experience everlasting life; for “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we love You with our whole hearts.  May we always worship You in Spirit and in truth, and may we never forsake Your ways.  If any form of idolatry has entered our lives, may you uproot it and cast it in to the sea.  May we be purified, and once again comprehend the goodness of humility and faith.  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.

You are never alone

JESUS SPEAKING

                Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16: 31 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus, knowing that he would soon be detained and crucified, informed his disciples that they would abandon him in his time of greatest need.  Sure enough, upon being arrested, his closest friends fled in terror; preferring self preservation over fearless fidelity.  In solitude he endured a gruesome ordeal; being interrogated, beaten, flogged, spit upon, and mocked; he was pierced by thorns, by a spear, and by nails.  Weakened and maimed, he struggled to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem (and through the angry mobs who hurled insults at him.)  Half naked and covered in blood, the Son of God finally reached his destination.  At mount Calvary he was raised up under the hot sun to experience a slow grueling death by exposure, dehydration, and suffocation.  Jesus Christ endured this pain willingly; but he did not endure it alone; for God was with him.  He was strengthened, consoled, and comforted by our loving Father.  We, like Jesus will struggle through painful trials.  Life is filled with obstacles and challenges.  Yet those whom God has chosen will never struggle in isolation.  The elect will always have a perpetual helper; an eternal friend; and a constant companion.

                Many years ago I experienced a period of extreme suffering; I lived a life of selfishness and depravity.  I actively abused drugs, my body, and other people.  In a downward spiral of self-destruction, I managed to push away nearly every human being.  I lived alone in an apartment.  Isolated from the world and plagued with paranoia, I struggled to survive (using drugs in excess, I often stayed awake for weeks on end.)  One dark day, in the depths of my addiction, I overdosed.  As I lay in bed, my body began to shut down.  A feeling of death slowly crept up my fingers and toes; as if my limbs were turning to concrete; I recall thinking, “This must be what it feels like to be a wall, or a stone; or some other dead, inanimate object.”  Fearing my own demise, I mustered all of the strength I had left to speak; and out of my mouth came the words, “Jesus help me…Jesus help me…Jesus help me.”  As I continually repeated this phrase, the dead feeling began to recede back down my limbs (the life returned to my body and I recovered fully.)  Jesus Christ saved me from the jaws of death and eternal condemnation.  Although I had abandoned God, God had not abandoned me; despite my belief that I was alone in that apartment I was not; for God was present with me.  Sometime later I gave my life to the Lord, and I now know that He has always been with me; protecting and preventing; guiding and directing; watching and waiting, for the day of my salvation.

                Even when we feel completely alone, we are not.  When family, friends, and society itself has turned away from us, God is near.  He waits patiently for every sinner to receive His free gift.  Our Heavenly Father is anxious to love and to forgive.  He is desperate to embrace the lonely, the lost, and the lifeless.  Cry out to Him and He will hear you.  Have faith in Christ and you will know salvation.  Turn to The Lord and grab hold of your constant companion; He is a Father who will love you eternally; a friend who will stand beside you forever; and a God “who will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we cry out to You now; reveal Yourself to us; we accept Your sacrifice and fully embrace You.  May You never leave us nor forsake us.  May You always dwell within our hearts; comfort us; direct us; and fellowship with us.  Lord Jesus, may we never be lonely again; knowing that You are our everlasting companion; our Compassionate Creator; and our faithful friend.  We love You Father; we love You Lord Jesus; and we ask and pray all of these things according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

Jesus welcomes outcasts

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat 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 not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness.  The majority of prostitutes and tax-collectors possessed no illusions of purity; they were therefore capable of evaluating themselves honestly.  The religious leaders were blinded by pride; mistakenly believing they were righteous, they refused to accept God’s message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward real fellowship with God includes a genuine recognition of sin.  Many today are being crushed beneath the weight of guilt and shame.  Those who need healing the most are the first to be rejected by the self-righteous.  However, although the world has forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

                Those who lived within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were no hospitals, retirement homes, or assisted living facilities.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who became ill were usually abandoned by the strong; many were left to die alone in the streets.  Still, as Christianity began to spread, so did attributes like mercy, compassion, and love.  During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians was assembled to care for those who had fallen ill.  They became known as “the Parabalani” (“the reckless ones”) because in caring for the sick, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they preached the gospel.  We might safely conclude that those who lay dying in the streets received salvation at a far greater rate than those were healthy.

                As Christians, we are called to reach out and to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing to receive God’s message.  May we never shun sinners, nor abandon the lost.  The Holy Spirit will provide every faithful believer with opportunities to preach the gospel and to deliver healing to those who are afflicted.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we continue to be instruments of Your mercy, and may others come to know true forgiveness and reconciliation.  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.

Our possessions belong to God

JESUS SPEAKING

                And it came to pass, when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that he sent two of his disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.  Loose it and bring here.  And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’”  So those who were sent went their way and found it just as he had said to them.  But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?”  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”  And they brought him to Jesus (Luke 19: 29 – 35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The book of Zechariah prophesied that the messiah would arrive humbly; “riding on a donkey.”  Jesus therefore sent out two disciples to procure an animal for his triumphal entry in to Jerusalem.  When the men were confronted by the owners, they did as they were instructed; they responded saying, “The Lord has need of it” (in turn, they were permitted to leave.)  Much has been written about this brief encounter; many commentaries likely highlight the omniscience of God, the wisdom of Christ, and the faithfulness of the disciples (with good reason.)  Yet in the midst of God’s glory, there exists a nameless stranger; a generous man (or woman) who immediately recognized that his (or her) possessions were divine endowments; gifts from God that were to be used to serve the creator whenever He had need of them.

                Every year around the holidays, a Christian organization known as ‘Operation Christmas Child’ begins working with thousands of churches throughout the United States.  Congregational members are instructed to fill shoeboxes full of toys and deliver them to their local pastors.  The boxes are then transported to a warehouse where they are sorted by volunteers, packaged, and shipped to impoverished nations around the world.  Recently, I and a few other Christians volunteered at a nearby processing plant; we sorted through hundreds of boxes; the gifts were beautiful (some givers chose to include pictures of themselves and many had even taken the time to write letters.)  Millions of people across the country were asked by God to give of their resources; millions responded to His call; in turn, many have come to experience the love of Jesus Christ.

                Our possessions are not our own; our time, our money, and our resources all belong to God.  We are simply stewards of what we have been given.  When the Lord calls we must be willing to relinquish control of our goods so that others may know the love of Christ.  Be still, and the Holy Spirit will tell you what and when to give.  Be generous, be faithful, and you will experience the joy of the Lord; and His peace will fill your heart, now, and forevermore.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us opportunities to use our resources to further Your Kingdom.  May we be generous; may we be faithful; may we serve others with gladness and singleness of heart; and may we never turn away from those who are in need.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Love God’s Messengers

JESUS SPEAKING

                “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.  He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.  And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Mathew 10: 40 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century there were no computers or telephones; nor was there any formal postal service.  Therefore, long distance communication was carried out by personal messenger.  Generally, when the individual carrying a message had arrived, they were received warmly and treated with great love and respect (most were provided with food, water, and lodging.)  To disrespect and neglect a messenger was to disrespect and neglect the one who had sent him.

                Many centuries before Jesus Christ arrived, there live a very powerful old testament prophet named Elijah.  Due to the wickedness of King Ahab, Elijah was forced to pronounce a drought upon the nation of Israel.  Eventually, the land became so dry that many began to starve.  During this time, God instructed the prophet to travel to a foreign land (where he was to lodge with a widow and her son.)  Upon arriving he asked the unfortunate woman for some bread.  She replied, saying, “I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son; that we may eat it, and die.”  Elijah replied saying, “Do not fear […] but make a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son for thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”  The widow woman did as she was told and God continually filled the bin with flour and the jar with oil (because she had shown love toward God’s messenger, she also received his reward: as others died, the widow and her son remained unharmed.)

                Each member of the body of Christ is a prophet; every priest, pastor, teacher, evangelist, and elder carries an important message from the Lord.  Those who love and care for God’s messengers, love and care for God Himself.  When we support a missionary we receive their blessings.  When we give to the church, we share in their labors, and reap their rewards.  When we serve those who serve God, we serve Jesus Christ.  Get involved at a church and ask how you can be of service; look for opportunities to love those who carry God’s message, and you will know the true riches of His mercy and grace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to love those whom You have sent.  Provide us with opportunities to receive Your disciples, Your teachers, and Your prophets.  May we draw near to Your messengers, and give to those who faithfully serve You; that we might obtain the blessings You have so graciously bestowed upon them.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.