Archive for April, 2014

Loving Lepers

 

JESUS SPEAKING

            And it happened when he was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then he put out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  Immediately the leprosy left him.  And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded you” (Luke 5: 12-14.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

             Not only does leprosy rot away fingers, toes, ears, and noses, it is also highly contagious.  Those who contracted the disease were removed from their communities and homes, and were required to live in isolation.  When lepers encountered travelers, they were obligated to yell, “Unclean, Unclean,” as a warning to others.  In desperation, a leprous man approached Jesus, and was healed by a single touch.  Knowing the man desired to return to his family, Jesus commanded him to go and show himself to the priest.  [In Jewish culture, the priests diagnosed social diseases like leprosy.  When a person claimed to be healed, they were required to go before the priests for examination.  If they were truly clean they would be allowed to return home.]

             Some time ago while studying in the coffee shop I frequented, I met a man who was troubled.  I introduced myself, and we began talking about his situation.  He had been released from prison two months earlier and no one wanted to rent him a room because of his criminal record.  He had been living in his mother’s car.  He couldn’t find work because he didn’t have a stable residence.  I was moved to share the love of Christ with him, and I invited him to attend a bible study in my home.  I told him his past didn’t matter to me, or to God.  In the eyes of the world, he was as leprous as the man Jesus healed.  The Lord used me to reach out to him, and to touch his sick and hurting soul.  He was able to see that there was a God who loved him.

             Every day, all around us, there are people who are treated like lepers:  drug addicts; criminals; the mentally ill; gang members; and the homeless (to name a few.)  Although the world has turned its back on many, God has not; the outcasts are His children too.  Our task is to bring God’s message to those who have been rejected.  When you encounter the unloved, show them that God loves them.  Find an outcast and talk to them; eat with them; help them; and care for them.  Don’t be afraid, but rejoice; for God has chosen you to be a messenger of peace; to bring His love and mercy to those who need it the most.

             “Lord heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would give us compassionate hearts.  Use us to touch those who are untouchable.  May our fears be replaced by love.  Provide us with opportunities to care for those who have been rejected.  Give us more of Your Holy Spirit, that we might show sinners the love of a Savior.  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.

Shining Brightly

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it provides light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mathew 5: 14 – 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                It is impossible for a Christian to remain unrecognized. To stay hidden is to fail to fulfill God’s purpose. Every genuine believer is called to be different; to stand out; to be set apart; loving where there is no love; serving in the midst of selfishness; faithfully encouraging others; nurturing the sick; caring for the needy; filling the hearts and minds of many with hope and joy. Genuine faith inevitably produces an abundance of good works. As disciples we are set apart; we are a light in a dark world; we are divine instruments that point toward the one true and everlasting Father.
                Of all the planets and stars that glow in the night sky, one of the brightest is the North Star (known as Polaris.) Resting in a sea of stars it outshines most of its neighbors. Additionally, every other star in the northern hemisphere travels across the sky; Polaris however, remains fixed; a characteristic that proved useful to ancient mariners who sought to navigate the open oceans. The North Star’s brightness and stability make it easy to recognize; a heavenly body that is not readily confused with the thousands of dimmer objects that surround it.
                Like the North Star, the believer is by far the brightest and most stable object in the lives of those around them. In a sea of unbelievers, the followers of Jesus Christ standout; they are unique. Filled with compassion, charity, and peace, they are easily recognized. They orient others by pointing them toward God (who is the source of all love and mercy.) If you have received the salvation of the Lord, then you too are different. Don’t seek to remain hidden. Instead, let the light of Christ shine through you; that others may see your good works and know that there is a God who loves them.
                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be different. We desire to be more loving, more caring, and more giving. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, and help us to shine brightly in this dark and often cold world. May others see our good works and be drawn to You; the loving Creator and everlasting Father. We love You Lord, 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.

Promoting Peace

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Son’s of God” (Mathew 5: 9)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The world is full of conflict. Yet in the midst of the hostility, God’s children are called to promote peace. The Lord Himself is a peacemaker; He detests meaningless wars, and abhors senseless aggression. Many who share His heart also share His mission; to bring harmony where there is hatred and tranquility where there is contempt. Those who choose to make peace will inherit the eternal blessings offered to the “Son’s (and daughters) of God.”
                As the story goes, in the 4th century A.D., a monk named Telemachus felt God calling him to go to Rome. He packed up his meager possessions and set out for the great city. When he arrived, the streets were bustling with excitement. He asked why everyone was so energized; he was informed that the gladiators would soon be fighting to the death in the coliseum. Horrified that men would be killing one another for sport, he headed to the stadium. After entering, he pushed through the crowds, hopped a fence, and made his way to the center of the arena. As he stood between the two gladiators, he shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.” The crowd began to yell, “Run him through…Run him through.” A gladiator approached the monk and struck him in the stomach with the back of his sword. Telemachus fell to the ground, but soon recovered. Once again he placed himself between the two armed men and shouted, “In the name of Christ, stop.” Suddenly the other gladiator approached the monk and plunged his sword in to his belly. Telemachus fell to the ground and began to bleed out. Before dying, he was able to utter one last statement; “In the name of Christ, stop.” A hush came over the crowd. Suddenly, a single man stood up and left the stadium; followed by another; and another. Within minutes all 80,000 people had exited the coliseum. That was the final gladiatorial contest in Roman history.
                The people of God are called to be peacemakers, no matter the consequence. When others are silent we must speak up. Where there is discord we must bring harmony; where there is conflict we must promote peace. In so doing we will be called ‘The children of God,’ and will come to experience the many blessings reserved for those who remain faithful.
               “Lord Heavenly Father, we long for obedience; may we share the desires of Your heart. May we love others as You do. May You continually use us to promote peace and to end conflict. Give us the courage and the strength to speak up when others fall silent; may we be Your sons and daughters, and may we experience the blessings of genuine obedience. 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.

Persistent Prayer

 

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Please, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, but because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11: 5-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

           In Middle Eastern culture, welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs.  Guests were given food, shelter, and protection.  Failure to do so was considered a great disgrace.  In this parable, a tired and wearied traveler arrived at his friend’s home late in the evening.  The host, lacking the proper sustenance, approached his neighbor, hoping to acquire some food.  The sleeping man, irritated by the untimely appeal, denied his initial request.  However, the neighbor’s persistence eventually paid off.  In this parable, the request for food is a reference to prayer.  The unrelenting neighbor symbolizes those who pray without ceasing; and the man who supplied the food represents God, who enjoys and rewards those who tirelessly continue in prayer. 

            At the age of 23 an inquisitive youth from Gloucester, spied an advertisement in a Boston newspaper that read, “Wanted:  young man as an understudy to a financial statistician.  P.O. Box 1720.”  He responded to the ad by way of letter; but he received no reply.  He wrote a second letter, and then a third; still no reply.  So he made his way down to the post office and requested the name of the owner of Box 1720; but the clerk refused.  He then met with the Postmaster, but he too refused (claiming it was illegal to provide him with that information.)  The young man remained determined; he arose early in the morning, hopped on the first train to Boston, and entered the post office.  He stood patiently with his eyes fixed on box 1720.  After quite some time, a man appeared; he opened the box, grabbed the mail and left.  The young man followed him to his brokerage firm; he entered and asked to speak to the manager.  He told the manager that he had written three letters, before going to the post office where he was refused any further information.  The manager asked, “But how did you find out that I was the advertiser?”  The youth replied, “I stood in the lobby of the post office for several hours, watching Box 1720.  When the man came in and took the mail from the box, I followed him here.”  The manager said, “Young man, you are just the kind of persistent fellow I want.  You’re hired.”

            Similarly, God rewards those who are persistent in prayer.  All too often, our prayers are erratic and inconsistent.  Although we make our requests known to God, we frequently get discouraged when He doesn’t answer them immediately.  In turn, many simply stop asking.  If we have need of something, we must relentlessly make our requests known to God.  We may not receive the blessing on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if we are persistent, it will come.  We must never stop asking, never stop seeking, and never stop knocking.  God is listening; and He is willing and able to give us the desires of our heart.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers.  We stand at the door and knock; we will not relent until You bless us.  May we remain persistent in our prayers; may we be graced with patience and the strength to endure.  Transform our hearts and minds; provide for our needs; and fill us with the fullness of Your mercy and love.  We adore 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.