Archive for June, 2013

When Tragedies become blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9: 1–7.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century it was commonly believed that all deformity and dysfunction was the result of sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not by sin, but by the will of God.  In healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic are designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, frequently they are the greatest blessings we will ever know.

                In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when a 14 foot tiger shark attacked her.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  She nearly bled to death before being rushed to the hospital.  Bethany had been one of the top competitive junior surfers in the world prior to her injury.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She was determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water and began training nearly 3 weeks after her accident.  She started with a long board (making it easier to paddle.)  She then moved to a smaller board, and then to a smaller board; until finally, she was once again surfing on a short board.  Because Bethany refused to quit she has gone on to place in and win many of the world’s top female surf competitions.  Her experience has become world famous; she has received thousands of letters and numerous awards; she has appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggle and victory (her story has recently been made in to a major motion picture entitled “Soul Surfer.”)  Throughout her ordeal, Bethany has remained an outspoken Christian.  She thanks Jesus Christ for her strength, her courage, and her triumph.  Was losing her arm God’s will?  Yes.  What appeared to be a tragedy, has become the greatest blessing she has ever known.  With two arms she would have likely won some surf competitions (she might have even made it on to the cover of a surf magazine.)  Yet with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the whole world.  She is a symbol of faith and a living example of God’s ability to take the broken and make them whole again.

                Is there anything in your life that you struggle with; something that seems tragic; a source of shame or pain?  Take another look; you may find a wonderful victory hidden within a great calamity.  Seek the Lord, and He will strengthen you and lift you up.  Lean on God, and let Him use you; He will take your weaknesses and make them your strengths.  When He transforms your life, remember to give Him the credit He deserves.  Utilize God’s power and have faith; never give up; face your fears; and many will see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to our strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and shortcomings; through the power of Your Holy Spirit may we all be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  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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Stay focused on God

JESUS SPEAKING

                [As Christ walked with Peter along the beach, he said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This he spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God […] Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on his breast at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”  Peter, seeing him asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?  You follow me?” (John 21: 18 – 22.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He ate with them; fellowshipped with them; and encouraged them.  He also privately took Peter on a walk along the beach (the apostle John followed at a close distance.)  The Lord told Peter that one day he would be crucified for his faith.  Peter, then inquired about the Apostle John’s fate.  Jesus gently rebuked him (such matters were not his concern.)  Jesus reminded him to remain completely focused upon his Lord and Savior.  Peter had made a very common error; a mistake that is still prevalent within the church today.  Many wrongly focus their attentions on other believers; or on their circumstances; or even on themselves.  However, Jesus Christ demands the complete and undivided attention of every faithful follower.

                How important is it to remain focused on Jesus Christ?  On another occasion the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.  Peter filled with faith, yelled “Lord if it is you […] tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “come.”  Peter got out of the boat, and began to walk on water; but as he approached Christ, he began to focus on the large waves that encircled him.  Because he had taken his eyes off of the Lord, he began to sink; he cried out to Jesus saying “Lord save me.”  Jesus grabbed him, and pulled him from the raging sea.  Peter’s faith waivered because he turned his attentions away from the messiah.  We can all learn from Peter’s mistake; those who are wise will continually remain focused upon Jesus Christ.

                This world is full of diversions.  We, like Peter, are all guilty of looking to the left and to the right; we have all misplaced our attentions; we have all succumbed to the numerous distractions in life.  Though we have failed in many ways, with God’s help, we can all once again refocus upon our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  May our trust, faith, and hope in him never waiver; for in him we find our strength, our salvation, and our greatest victory.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we look to Your Son, and we place our faith fully in Him.  Remove any distractions or diversions that exist in our lives and in our hearts.  May our attentions always be focused upon You.  Continue to sanctify us, that we might be fruitful.  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. 

Seeking the lost

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he spoke this parable to them, saying:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15: 1-7.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The religious leaders despised Jesus because he ate with sinners and social outcasts.  The priests and teachers of the law were absolutely obsessed with ritualistic purity.  Most avoided talking too, or even brushing up against those they deemed ungodly [The Jewish people customarily ate food in extremely intimate ways.  They shared cups and dipped bread in to communal bowls; eating supper meant sharing saliva; therefore they believed that whoever you dined with, you became one with.  In turn, sins were readily transferred from one person to another.  For example, they believed that eating with a prostitute made them prostitutes; eating with a murderer made them murderers.]  The Pharisees avoided fellowship with sinners. Jesus however saw them as God’s children; he fellow-shipped with them; ate with them; and loved them; in turn many lost sheep did repent and receive salvation.

                One day a man approached me for help.  He had been a recovering alcoholic for years, but had fallen back in to his old lifestyle.  His clothes were ragged and he smelled rancid; he appeared sick and his hands were shaking badly.  I prayed with the man, bought him some food and gave him a bible; I also helped him enter a treatment center.  At one point I even had to drive his car.  When I approached the vehicle and opened the door, a plume of awful stench struck my nostrils.  He had been passing out in and urinating all over the front seat.  I didn’t want to endure the horrible smell; nor did I desire to sit in human waste.  But God spoke to my heart; I instantly understood that getting dirty was, and is, a necessary part of spreading the gospel.  I sat in that urine; I drove that car; and in turn, I reached a man for Jesus Christ.

                Jesus himself wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  He ate with, lived with, and reached out to sinners.  His most important mission was to save the lost; our mission is the same as his.  We shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty; nor should we push sinners away; instead we must invite them in; we must embrace them and love them.  They are God’s children; they are His precious possession; they are the treasure; they are the prize.  No matter how filthy or evil a person might be, God never stops seeking them; He never gives up, and He never grows tired.  He is full of mercy and grace, and in Him all repentant sinners can find rest for their souls.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always seek the lost.  May we never be afraid of getting dirty.  May all come to repentance and reconciliation.  Give us strength and wisdom to reach out to others.  Provide us with more of Your Holy Spirit.  May we have countless opportunities to testify of Your Son; that the world may know of Your gracious gift of salvation.  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. 

The Rapture

JESUS SPEAKING

            “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man (Jesus Christ):  For they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all […] even so will it be in the day that the Son of man (Jesus Christ) is revealed.  In that day, he who is on the housetop and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you in that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  Two women will be grinding together; the one will be taken and the other left.  Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17: 26 – 27, 30 – 36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The event Jesus describes in this scripture has collectively become known as ‘the rapture.’  In a moment, in the blink of an eye, God will gather up his faithful believers from around the world before pouring out His wrath upon the earth.  Co-workers, relatives, friends, and complete strangers will vanish in an instant.  Those who are left behind will face God’s judgments.  How can we be prepared for the rapture?  By loving eternal rewards more than worldly possessions (wealth, homes, jobs, belongings, etc.)  Jesus asks us to consider Lot’s wife; a woman who was ill-prepared for God’s deliverance.  In the Old Testament, she and her family were lead out of the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah just prior to its destruction.  Sadly she disobeyed God’s command, by turning around and looking back upon the city with fondness and affection.  As a result she was turned in to a pillar of salt.

            Like Lot’s wife, many people throughout history have mistakenly loved worldly possessions more than their own lives.  One day as my dad and I were driving through the town where I grew up, we happened by a certain building.  He informed me that decades earlier the building had caught on fire.  The owner foolishly rushed in and went to the basement to collect some of his valuables.  Unfortunately he became trapped inside.  He desperately tried to crawl through a basement window; but it was too small for him to fit through.  Unable to help, onlookers could do nothing but watch as he perished in the flames.  He died because he valued his possessions more than his own life.

            Similarly, many value their belongings more than their eternal lives.  Those who have found great comfort in their worldly possessions are therefore ill-prepared for the coming kingdom.  As believers we must be ready for ‘the rapture;’ an event that could occur at any moment.  To be completely prepared is to love God more than anything else.  We must make truth more important than trust funds and make people more valuable than possessions.  As our values change we will come to embrace the rapture and look forward to it with great joy and overwhelming anticipation.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to value the things that are truly important.  Prepare our hearts and minds for the rapture; may our thoughts be continually focused upon Your coming Kingdom.  Strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we might accomplish your will and bring honor and glory to your Holy name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Self-examination

JESUS SPEAKING

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First Remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6: 41 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

Seeing fault in others is far easier than seeing it in ourselves.  Therefore, we judge our fellows, not realizing that we are guilty of similar offenses.  Such ignorance often leads to a misguided but well intentioned form of hypocrisy, by which we mistakenly attempt to help others overcome the sins we ourselves have never been able to conquer.  To succeed in helping others we must first examine our own moral behavior.  As we put our lives under the microscope we become aware of our shortcomings.  Armed with knowledge and aided by God, we can have victory over our sins, and in turn, help others to do the same.

Self-examination has played a rather prominent role in my Christian experience.  Therefore I frequently complete moral inventories.  During my inventories I write down every area of my life that is morally questionable; then, aided by God, I attempt to correct each errant behavior.  Additionally, I attend a men’s accountability group; every Monday we meet to share our moral failures and successes.  If we struggle with some sin, we set it as an accountability; then we ask God to help us achieve our weekly goals.  I have seen much growth in myself and the other men who attend the group.  In my life, self-examination has led to change, and change has enabled me to help others to overcome similar difficulties.

When we trust in God and examine our own shortcomings we experience a miraculous transformation.  If you have never done a moral inventory, sit down and take stock of your life; where are you succeeding; where are you failing.  With much prayer and an honest self-appraisal you too can have victory over your sins.  As you become more like Jesus Christ, you will be better able to help others to do the same.

“Lord Heavenly Father, make us aware of our shortcomings, and give us the power to overcome them (that we might be more like Your Son Jesus Christ.)  As we change, may we help others to achieve victory over their sins, that they too, might come to worship You in sincerity and truth.  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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