Archive for February, 2013

The Journey

JESUS SPEAKING

And when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave a command to depart to the other side.  Then a certain scribe came and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus spoke to him saying, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mathew 8: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ was born in human form and raised in the house of Mary and Joseph.  Yet his true home was with God in heaven.  He was a temporary traveler who was ever mindful of his eventual destination.  He had no earthly residence; no permanent place to dwell; every miracle, every profession of truth, every act of love, brought him one step closer to home.  As he traveled, he made every effort to persuade others to join him in journeying toward the Kingdom of God; a mission that presently continues.  Thankfully many today receive the message and begin traveling; sadly however, many do not.  The road to heaven is long and the way is not easy, but the destination is more wonderful than anything we could have ever imagined.

In the Old Testament, Moses led millions of Israelites out of slavery and bondage in Egypt.  After crossing through the Red Sea, they began wandering in the desert for 40 years.  During that time, God provided them with food to eat and water to drink.  They lived in tents with no stable place to call home.  Yet the Lord had sworn an oath to eventually lead them in to a permanent land of their own; it was this promise that kept them alive as they embraced a life of hardship.  After many years of sacrifice, God fulfilled His pledge, and safely guided them in to the land of Israel.

Similarly, those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are led out of slavery and bondage to sin; they become travelers in this life, relying upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs.  Each one clings to the promise of God; the promise that they will one day enter his permanent dwelling place.  As we journey toward the Kingdom of God, we must embrace a life of sacrifice, humility, and service.  Only in denying our love of this world, do we truly embrace our love of the world to come.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we cling tightly to Your promises.  May we deny ourselves and live lives of loving sacrifice.  Strengthen us, and enable us to continue journeying toward Your kingdom.  May we never forget that we are but travelers in this place, and that our true home is with You.  Give us the courage to reach out to the lost; that we might continually convince others to join us on our journey.  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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Freedom

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendents and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say you will be made free?”  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31 – 36)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Although slavery was common in the ancient world, the men Jesus spoke with were not slaves.  Rather, being free men, they did not understand that they were slaves to their individual sinful appetites.  Often sin is a far crueler taskmaster than a man holding a whip.  So many people are hopelessly ruled over by addictions; some are addicted to drugs and alcohol, some to pornography and sexual deviancy; many are in bondage to cigarettes, gambling, food, laziness, video games, television, money, etc.  No matter how vast the number of sins might be, Jesus Christ has been setting people free from them for nearly 2000 years.

                One day I visited Venice Beach; as I walked amidst the shops and street performers I happened across a young couple.  They were homeless; their hair was tangled and matted; their clothes were riddled with holes and despite being raised in the United States, they spoke with a heavy Jamaican accent.  They appeared to be practicing the Rastafarian religion; a religion that promotes the spiritual use of marijuana.  Their bondage to marijuana was so terrible that they had adopted an entire lifestyle that would allow them to continue smoking it without conviction.  Although they believed themselves to be free, they were in fact slaves; slaves whose master had caused them to lose nearly everything.  I was able to tell them how God had transformed my life; how He had relieved me of my addictions.  I would like to tell you that they received the message and were reborn, but I cannot.  I can only pray that Jesus Christ eventually set them free.

                If you are in bondage to some sin, turn to Jesus Christ fully and he will relieve of your burdens.  He will set you free from your addictions; he will heal your mind and your Spirit.  Invite him in to your heart and he will be your master; he will protect you, he will guide you, he will mold you and shape you in to his image.  You will know true freedom, and as the love of God fills your heart, you will experience genuine gratitude and eternal peace.  [Note:  If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and would like to be set free, contact me and we can discuss how you might make that decision today.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be set free from the bondage of sin and death.  Heal our hearts and minds; give us hope.  May our addictions be relieved, and may our fleshly desires be destroyed.  May we serve You in sincerity of heart; may we never stray from Your paths of righteousness; and may we dwell in Your presence forever.  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.

Zeal

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.  When he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers money and overturned the tables.  And he said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away!  Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise!”  Then the disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house has eaten me up” (John 2: 13 – 17.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Long ago King David prophesied that the messiah would be zealous for the things of God.  When Jesus witnessed his fellow Israelites using the temple for selfish gain, he was filled with anger.  He responded by using a whip to passionately chase out those who were defiling his Father’s house.  Similarly, in our lives, we too will come to witness acts of great evil.  In these moments the Holy Spirit will remove our fears and fill our hearts with zeal; enabling us to take action against those who practice villainy.

                One day as I studied in the coffee shop, a man and his teenage son sat down beside me.  The Father remained calm while his son persistently berated and verbally abused him.  As the disrespect continued my heart was filled with righteous anger.  After a short time the young man threatened his dad, saying, “Have you ever been punched in the face?”  Turning toward the son I angrily said, “Shut your mouth.”  The boy quieted down.  I proceeded to tell him how horribly he was behaving and I sternly lectured him concerning parental respect.  Embarrassed and afraid, the young man got up and walked outside.  Later he returned and apologized.

                In our lives, on occasion we are going to witness acts of such overwhelming evil, that God will inspire us to intervene.  In those moments He will fill our hearts with zeal.  He will give us the words to speak and the strength to overcome our fears.  He will use us to rebuke, to exhort, and to correct those who knowingly violate the laws of God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us the strength to speak the truth when it is needed.  May we be zealous for Your ways, and love what is good.  When great acts of evil are being committed may we stand against them; may our desires for righteousness always overcome our fears of reprisal.  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.   

Unconditional Forgiveness

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Take heed to yourselves.  If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17: 3-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                God’s forgiveness is not without stipulation.  Those who desire His mercy must be merciful; those who yearn for His forgiveness must not withhold forgiveness from others.  Hatred, anger, and resentment have no place in the heart of the believer; unresolved bitterness creates division between God and man.  Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Those who follow the Lord seek to imitate Him by defending the weak, feeding the hungry, and loving the unlovable; similarly, every disciple is obligated to forgive without restriction or exception (as God Himself forgives.)  There are no limits to God’s mercy, and those who forgive unconditionally can be used as instruments of limitless love.

                In 1956, five American missionaries flew in to the jungles of Ecuador to make contact with a hostile and war-like tribe of Indians known as the Waodani.  All five men were speared to death.  The families were devastated by the loss; in one day, many children were orphaned and many wives were widowed.  Did the families seek vengeance?  Did they cry out for justice?  No […] instead Elizabeth Elliot (who had lost a husband), and Rachael Saint (who had lost a brother), were obedient to God and forgave the tribesmen unconditionally.  Elizabeth and Rachael continued to evangelize the natives, and the Waodani people eventually invited them in to their community.  One by one, the members of the tribe began to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.  The men who had perpetrated the murders expressed great joy in knowing that they had been forgiven.  The women eventually formed lifelong friendships with the men who had killed their loved ones.  This unconditional forgiveness has given birth to the Waodani Church; a church that thrives to this day.  The members of the tribe have put down their spears and have begun to evangelize the other neighboring tribes (at great personal risk to themselves.)  This amazing work was made possible because two women were willing to forgive without restriction.

                Forgiving others is not a suggestion, a recommendation, or a request; it is a command; a command that heals both the forgiver and those who are forgiven.  Is there anyone you are angry with?  Has someone caused you great pain?  Then you must forgive them.  Search your heart and ask God to give you the courage, and the strength to let go of your resentments; to lay down your hostility; to do away with your bitterness; in turn, God will give you peace […] and your heart will be filled with joy as you walk in fellowship with your creator.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, search our hearts and reveal our resentments.  Give us the strength to forgive completely.  May we love as You have loved.  May we forgive as You forgive.  May we be kind to those who have harmed us; may we bestow compassion upon those who have mistreated us; and may we always be examples of Your awesome 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.