Archive for December, 2013

Letting go, grabbing hold

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Again, the kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mathew 13: 45-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The message of “The kingdom of God,” is priceless; it is a treasure; a treasure more valuable than gold, and more precious than any diamond.  For contained within it is the gift of eternal life and the love of God.  As Jesus preached the message, a fortunate few recognized the truth and were willing to trade in all of their possessions to receive the Lord’s everlasting gift.  Many who came to believe sacrificed great wealth, time, relationships, homes, and positions within the community, in order to take hold of the true riches of God’s eternal kingdom.  As believers, we must let go of the world in order to fully embrace the Lord.

                Some people actually make a living letting go of one thing so they can grab hold of another.  Trapeze performers, for example, swing effortlessly back and forth, high above cold concrete floors.  For these men, timing and precision can mean the difference between living and dying.  The man, who risks his life to spin through the air, must know when to let go of his swing and when to grab hold of his partner dangling from the opposite swing.  So too, the gospel is a message about ‘letting go’ and ‘grabbing hold;’ no one can ‘grab hold’ of the Kingdom of God unless they fist ‘let go’ of whatever they are clinging too in this world.  For the Christian, the pursuit of worldly rewards must end, and the pursuit of Godly rewards must begin.

               Sadly, during the Lord’s public ministry, thousands simply passed by him as he spoke; they chose to cling to their own lives rather than to grab hold of God and the life He was offering them.  Today, the Lord is still speaking; his message is still being proclaimed throughout the world.  Many still choose the temporary pleasures of this life over the eternal peace of God.  Most refuse because the Christian life is not easy.  There are many trials and hardships that accompany genuine faith.  Self-sacrifice and self-denial aren’t always popular, but they are necessary.  May we all choose to let go of our selfish pursuits.  May we loosen our grasp on the things of this world; and may we grab hold of and embrace the free gift of God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You give us the strength to avoid selfish living; we long to serve others, and to sacrifice our lives to accomplish Your desires.  May we receive your kingdom with gladness, and may we let go of anything that is hindering us from completely submitting to Your perfect will.  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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Sacrifice leads to blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18: 29-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                All valuable things have a price; and eternal life is no exception.  Although salvation is free, reconciliation requires sacrifice.  The cost for following Jesus Christ is high; most endure persecution, affliction, and hardship (many are ridiculed and socially ostracized.)  Obedience frequently produces loss; the loss of wealth and possessions; the loss of a home, a career, a family, or a friend; (there are even those who have laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel.)  From the time of the resurrection until today, not one righteous sacrifice has ever been committed in vain; for God has promised to replace every offering with something far greater.  To die as a peaceful martyr is to live forever in the His Kingdom.  To lay down earthly possessions is to grab hold of God’s eternal riches.  To suffer affliction for righteousness (here and now), is to one day experience unending freedom, and everlasting peace [Note:  God doesn’t just provide heavenly blessings; he also provides the faithful with many earthly blessings (wives, husbands, children, friends, etc.)]        

                Some time ago while serving at my church, I met a pastor named Greg.  A few years earlier he had been the starting quarterback for a division one college football team.  As he headed in to his senior year, his future looked promising.  Many expected him to excel, and to eventually enter the NFL draft.  According to the world, his life was an example of success.  Yet God had other plans for Greg.  Before the start of his senior year, he felt the Lord calling him in to full time ministry.  After much contemplation and prayer, Greg chose to sacrifice his probable fame and fortune to serve God.  When he announced his decision not to return for his final season, his coaches were mystified and his friends believed he had gone crazy.  In the eyes of the faithless he was making a very serious mistake.  Nearly four years after making his decision, Greg has never been more satisfied.  He is joyfully serving the Lord and has a beautiful wife, and has one young child.  He has sacrificed much, yet in return, he has received many priceless blessings (“and in the age to come, eternal life.”)  [Note:  Many necessary sacrifices often deal with sin.  Some years ago, when God began to remove the sins from my life, I was separated from many of my friends.  Because I no longer partied, the invitations to social functions became scarce.  I was no longer the irresponsible potty mouth that many had come to know and love.  One friend even remarked, “I like the old Jess better.”  I lost many friends when I gave up certain sins; but I gained far more.  God replaced the old with the new, and today my life is filled with healthy, loving, and caring individuals.]

                The Christian life requires sacrifice.  Letting go of what is evil and grabbing on to what is good, is not without consequence.  Obedience to the Lord produces loss; yet, for every earthly surrender there is a heavenly reward.  Trust in the Lord; sacrifice any sinful areas of your life upon God’s Holy altar; submit yourself to His leading, and you will experience all of the blessings he has promised to those who love and serve Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to sacrifice our lives to serve You.  May we accomplish Your will no matter the cost.  Remove any sins that stand in our way.  Give us a new heart; give us new desires; may we die so that You may live.  We thank You in advance for the blessings You have promised us.  We submit our lives to You now in 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.

The Love of a Father

JESUS SPEAKING

               “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’  So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.  Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed the swine.  And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.  But when his Father was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But his father said to his servant, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  And they began to be merry” (Luke 15: 11 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In this parable, the Father represents God, and the son represents every sinner who has wandered away from Him.  The ‘far country’ is figurative of the life of sin that many engage in when they turn away from The Lord.  The Sons return to his father symbolizes the act of repentance and rebirth that accompanies salvation.  In this passage, the prodigal son misjudges his father’s response to his return; believing he will be treated as a servant rather than a son.  Much to his surprise, he is lovingly embraced and honored.  The father is so overjoyed that he immediately orders the household to begin celebrating the occasion.

                Many years ago, prior to my conversion, I was actively abusing drugs and living in sin.  My family suffered greatly as they saw me spiraling downward.  My dad lived in a state of perpetual fear; not knowing when he would be informed of my death or incarceration.   Eventually I got sober, got a job, and gave my life to Jesus Christ.  Because I had been received, reborn, and embraced by my heavenly Father, my earthly father had gotten his son back as well.  My dad told me, “Out of all of your siblings, you are the one I worry about the least.”  On my wedding day, he looked at me with fondness and said, “You are my miracle.”

                 Although earthly dads often possess great love for their children, God is far more affectionate.  He loves even the worst sinners.  The magnitude of His fondness is immeasurable.  He tirelessly seeks the lost, and is always ready to receive those who have wandered away.  May we share that same love; may we share that same heart; and may we continue to search for and embrace those who need to know the love of their Heavenly Father.

                “Almighty God, Everlasting Father, we are amazed at the enormity of Your love.  We are astonished by the depths of Your mercy and grace.  Fill us with Your desires, that we may share Your heart and seek those who have wandered away.  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.

Who can be trusted?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8: 46-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No human being can live a completely sinless life.  Jesus however, being the Son of God, never once indulged in iniquity.  He was so confident of his own moral perfection, that he publicly challenged any willing soul to accuse him of sin.  In turn, his numerous enemies watched and waited, hoping he would make some grave error.  Despite continuous inspection and constant observation, he spoke plainly and publicly.  No one, not a single person, could find him guilty of sin.  In fact, at his trial, Pontius Pilate actually said of Jesus, “I find no fault in this man.”  Still he was crucified.  Trusting a sinless man makes more sense than trusting a sinful one.

                Throughout history there have been many self-proclaimed prophets; men who asked for trust, but were themselves untrustworthy; none of these liars ever dared place their own personal lives under examination.  Joseph Smith for example (false prophet and founder of the Mormon faith) claimed to be God’s chosen messenger.  He lived a life of sexual debauchery.  He married many women without telling his first wife Emma.  He also married other men’s wives in secret, and engaged in wife-swapping; he even went so far as to marry both a mother and her daughter (an offense punishable by death, according to God’s law.)  Unlike Jesus who invited others to scrutinize his life, Joseph Smith viciously sought to keep his sins a secret.  After being kicked out Missouri, Joseph and his followers went to the town of Nauvoo Illinois; the local newspaper began printing articles about his many wives and his sexual indiscretions; in June of 1844, fearing he might be exposed, Joseph ordered his followers to destroy the printing press; they broke in to the paper office, dragged the machine in to the street, and smashed it with sludge hammers.  Smith was arrested for this crime and later killed in jail.  

                Unlike Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ had nothing to hide; his life was without sin; he never lied, never exploited anyone, and never abused his position of authority to indulge in selfish pleasures.  Instead he served others, loved others, and brought the word of God to all those who were willing to listen.  Only Jesus Christ can be trusted; only our messiah is worthy of praise and honor.  Won’t you put your faith and trust in him today?  Obey him and follow him, and he will lead you in to eternal life; you will know true freedom, and you will take hold of the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’

                “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You and we thank You for Your Son.  He is sinless and completely trustworthy.  Help us to submit to his leadership; may he be at the center of our lives.  May we be more like him, and may we trust him with our whole hearts.  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.

Fasting

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But I say to you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Mathew 6: 16 – 18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Fasting is an ancient practice that elevates the spirit above the desires of the flesh.  Denying the body sustenance (food) for a time is a sacrifice that God honors; those who practice it draw near to Him and are given greater control over their fleshly impulses.  Many individuals were fasting for the wrong reasons; therefore Jesus warned His followers to fast in secret, and to avoid disclosing their endeavors to others.  In so doing, they would reap the spiritual rewards they so richly deserved.

            Jonathan Edwards was an evangelical pastor who lived in New England in the 1700’s.  He wasn’t a very articulate man; nor was he astoundingly charismatic; yet on July 8th 1741, he gave one of the most stirring sermons ever preached to a congregation; the sermon was entitled, “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God.”  The response from those in attendance was astonishing; many came to rededicate or fully commit their lives to Jesus Christ.  How did a man with very little natural ability accomplish such a feat?  He fasted for three days and three nights before giving his speech.  His repeated prayer to God was, “Give me New England.  Give me New England.  Give me New England.”

            Like Jonathan Edwards, we too can use fasting and prayer to accomplish wonderful things for God.  Some may fast for days, others for shorter amounts of time; no matter the length, every period of fasting is accompanied by a blessing.  Each time we deny ourselves food and dedicate ourselves fully to spiritual principals we become more like Jesus Christ.  Commit a portion of your life to fasting and you will grow stronger in the faith.  As you draw nearer to God you will receive the many blessings He has reserved for those who love Him.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to commit to the practice of fasting, that we might grow strong in the faith.  May we fast in secret and receive your rewards openly.  Guide us and lead us; speak to our hearts and transform our minds, that we would be Your children, and you would be our Father.  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of things according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.


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