Archive for April, 2013

Eradicating Doubt

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he left them, and getting in to a boat again (with his disciples), departed to the other side.  Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.  Then he charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”  But Jesus being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive nor understand?  Is your heart still hardened?  Having eyes, do you not see?  And having ears, do you not hear?  And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  They said to Him, “Twelve.”  “Also when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”  And they said, “Seven.”  So he said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” (Mark 8: 13 – 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Shortly after feeding four thousand people with seven loaves of bread, Jesus warned his disciples to beware of doubtful thoughts.  Despite having just witnessed God’s heavenly provision, the disciples began to fear that they had not brought enough food for their journey.  The Lord addressed their uncertainties by reminding them of his previous miracles.  On two separate occasions he had fed thousands with scarcely enough food to feed a small family.  If doubts arise within our hearts and minds, they can quickly be eradicated by recalling the many miracles God has performed for us in the past.

            In church I once heard a man give his personal testimony.  As a youth he had been hopelessly addicted to drugs and his life was unmanageable.  Eventually he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.  He began reading the bible and his life proceeded to change.  However, he had not yet given up his old friends.  One day he was gathered together with them in a house while they engaged in drug use; as he sat on the couch he opened his bible and began to read.  Suddenly a group of heavily armed drug enforcement agents broke through the door and began arresting everyone.  The man was so frightened he could barely move.  He thought, ‘If I just sit here and read my bible, nothing will happen to me.’  He heard lamps falling and people yelling as they were being dragged to the ground and arrested.  As the commotion swirled around him he never took his eyes off of God’s word.  After a short time he heard the front door slam and the house was completely silent.  Looking up he realized he was all alone.  No one had tackled him; no one had arrested him; no one had even questioned him.  Sometime afterward, God told him that He had blinded the eyes of the officers so that they couldn’t see him.  This man has undoubtedly recalled this miracle on many occasions to dispel doubts and to inspire his faith.

            Even the most faithful believers can occasionally experience doubtful thoughts.  If and when doubts arise, the natural remedy is remembrance.  How often has God healed our bodies; how often has He provided for our needs and protected us from trouble?  Our faith is preserved in times of trouble by remembering the wonderful miracles God has already performed in our lives.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, increase our faithfulness.  In moments of weakness may we be reminded of the many miracles You have already performed.  Through remembrance may our doubts be destroyed and our fears be put to death.  Fill our hearts with love, and peace, and truth, that we may continually trust in You and Your Son.  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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Fellowship

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I will be in the midst of them” (Mathew 18: 19 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            When two or more gather together in the name of Jesus Christ a powerful bond is formed between the creator and His creations; a bond that allows mankind to more fully commune with the living God.  Genuine Christianity can never be practiced in complete solitude.  Rather, the greatest expressions of faith can only be realized when believers gather together to love God and to love one another.  Without regular fellowship, it is nearly impossible to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

            A portion of my week is devoted to answering the prayer lines at my local church (a ministry I have been involved in for years.)  Although there are many faithful callers, there are many more who are unhappy, unsatisfied, disturbed, or emotionally unstable; some of whom are stuck in addictions and are in bondage to various sins.  I often ask them, “Where are you fellow-shipping?”  Some common responses are, “I used to fellowship at such and such a place but I don’t anymore;” or “I no longer fellowship because everywhere I go people turn against me;” and finally, “I don’t need to fellowship because I have my own relationship with God.”  I often remind them that faith is meant to be shared, and that no one can practice Christianity unless they are regularly fellow-shipping with others believers.  Some callers get upset and become hostile.  Others wisely consider making the necessary adjustments and their lives are changed for the better.

            Weekly, if not daily fellowship is an expression of genuine faith.  Those who desire to grow closer to God must also grow closer to their brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can remain in communication with other believers through social media, phone calls, and text messages.  We can pray for and encourage one another.  We can frequent weekly services and take communion.  We can attend small group bible studies and other church functions.  By loving our fellow Christians we will know the fullness of God’s love; as we draw near to Him and to others, our minds will know peace, and our hearts will be filled with joy.

            “Lord Heavenly Father we strongly desire to fellowship with other believers.  As we draw nearer to one another may we draw nearer to You.  Provide us with opportunities to commune with the other members of Your body; may our actions always be loving and may we never fail to encourage our eternal brothers and sisters.  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.

Does God love me?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                God is a loving Father who cares deeply for every man, woman, and child who has ever been born.  His love is so profound that He sent His only Son to suffer the punishment for our sins; that we might receive the gift of eternal life.  Because Jesus Christ was whipped, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified, the world has come to know the love of the almighty God; his pierced hands and feet are a perpetual reminder of the awesome measure of His affections.  Without sacrifice there is no proof of genuine love.

                Many years ago a man named William Dixon lived in Brackenwaite, England.  He was a widower whose only Son had tragically died.  There lived near him a grandmother who was raising her orphaned grandson.  One day their house caught on fire; although the aged grandmother was rescued, her grandson was trapped in the blaze.  Dixon climbed an iron pipe on the side of the house and lowered the boy to safety.  The hand he used to hold on to the pipe was badly burned.  Shortly after the fire, the grandmother died.  The townspeople wondered who would care for the boy.  Two volunteers appeared before the town council.  One was a father who had lost his son and wanted to adopt the orphan.  The other man was William Dixon.  When given the opportunity to speak, Mr. Dixon said nothing.  Instead, he simply raised his scarred hand in the air for everyone to see.  The vote was taken, and the boy was given to Dixon.

                Like Mr. Dixon, Jesus Christ endured much pain and suffering to save us from certain death.  His scarred hands and feet are perpetual reminders of His immense love.  Who better to call our master and our Lord than the one who sacrificed his life so that we could live?  Having received salvation, we are then compelled to lay down our lives for others.  Abandoning selfish pursuits, we are called to embrace the attributes of sacrifice, selflessness, and service.  Through our acts of kindness and love, God will continue to make known to the world the fullness of His affections.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we thank You for Your immeasurable love.  We praise you Jesus for the pain that you endured on the cross for us.  May our hearts continually be filled with gratitude.  May we follow Your example and lay down our lives to serve our fellows.  Give us the strength to forfeit our fleshly desires, that we might genuinely love others as You have so graciously loved us.  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. 

Gratitude and Humility

JESUS SPEAKING:

               “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5: 3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS:

                In this scripture, the phrase “poor in spirit” refers to the attribute of humility (a precious treasure that creates joy in the hearts of all those who possess it.)  Practicing humility means acknowledging that God is the giver of all good things.  The Lord provides us with our food, shelter, clothing, careers, relationships, and all of the other necessities of daily living.  He has complete power over all of creation; the very air we breathe is a gift from Him.  Although the humble offer God many praises, the prideful acknowledge only themselves; they mistakenly believe that everything they possess is the product of their own intelligence and hard work.

                Nebuchadnezzar was one of the mightiest kings who has ever lived.  He became ruler of the Babylonian empire in 605 B.C.  Like most powerful men, humility was not one of his greatest attributes; he demanded that his subjects worship him in the manner of a God.  One day as he strolled leisurely through his palace, he spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”  Before he was finished speaking, a voice came from heaven saying, “The kingdom has departed from you […] your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven years shall pass over you, until you know that the most high rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4: 30 – 32.)  Indeed, because the Babylonian King had failed to give God the credit for his possessions, he slipped in to madness and began acting like an ox for seven years.

                As believers we must not make the same mistake as Nebuchadnezzar.  Instead, we must acknowledge that all good things come from God; that every possession is a blessing and a gift.  Those who desire to enter God’s kingdom would do well to continually honor Him.  Practically, Christian humility can be expressed through prayers of gratitude offered to God daily; we can also say grace before meals and praise the Lord in our private time and during worship services.  Tithing is another acknowledgement of God’s goodness.  Ultimately whatever form of thankfulness we choose to offer, it should come from the heart; and from a deep appreciation for everything that God has so graciously given us.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many gifts and provisions; for our food, our clothes, and our homes (to name a few.)  We recognize that all good things come from You.  Help us to maintain a spirit of gratitude and humility.  Cleanse our hearts of pride, that in lowliness we might better serve You and our fellows.  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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