Archive for October, 2014

Amends

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)               

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; human beings live within complex social structures; communities made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with God.  When we sin against our neighbor, we also sin against our Lord.  If we lie, slander, and hate another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century, many Jewish families traveled long distances to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins; having received forgiveness, they were restored to a right relationship with God.  Jesus teaches us that we are to first be reconciled to our neighbor; only then are we permitted to approach the Lord and honor Him with our sacrifices.  Today, this commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential Christian practice.

                When I came to California many years ago, I began working a 12 step program; a system designed to help me overcome a horrible drug addiction.  The creators of the program were almost all Christians.  In turn, the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found in the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians, 13.  After becoming a Christian, I discovered that Christ’s command to make amends, likely inspired the founders to create the 8th and 9th steps.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to amends to them all.”  The ninth step reads, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I’ve continued making amends to those I’ve harmed.  I’ve made restitution and paid off every delinquent debt; I’ve also asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every debt paid and every apology given, I’ve felt my spirit drawing nearer to my teacher, my Lord, and my Friend.

                Today, in order to move forward with God, you might consider delving in to your past.  Examine your previous mistakes.  If you’ve stolen from anyone, pay them back; if you’ve lied, and your lies have caused hardship, return and speak the truth.  If by mistreating others, you have created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself, and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an important Christian practice.  We’ve all sinned; but what we do with those sins will determine whether we grow closer to the Lord, or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have harmed; may we approach them and make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  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.

A difficult question?

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates me hates my Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my father” (John 15: 22 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ preached throughout Israel for up to three years before being crucified.  He preached in the cities; in the wilderness; in the temple; in homes and on street corners; he preached to every capable Israelite.  He was so well known that he needed to travel by boat to avoid being thronged by the crowds.  Yet, despite seeing the miracles and hearing God’s message of repentance and forgiveness, many rejected him.  Others chose to avoid hearing him entirely; willfully embracing ignorance.  Still, voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection; and is therefore no excuse.  On the contrary, those who were never made aware of the message are not under condemnation.

                In my years of evangelism, I have interacted with numerous skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, who often use a common question to challenge God’s perfect justice: “If you can’t get to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ; what about the child in Africa who dies without ever having heard the gospel?  Are they going to go to hell?”  The answer is no.  God does not condemn the naive.  Those who are ignorant are innocent; yet those who have heard “have no excuse for their sin.”  Many refuse to open a bible or enter a church, believing that by not accepting or rejecting Jesus they will avoid condemnation.  They are wrong; voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection.

                The Followers of Jesus Christ continue to preach the gospel to this day.  Some accept him; some deny him; and others simply refuse to investigate.  God forgives the truly naive, but condemns the willingly ignorant.  There are very few places on earth where Christ’s message has yet to be preached.  Perhaps some remote tribe in the Amazon hasn’t heard the truth; or maybe a young child in a Hindu household in India remains ignorant?  God is just and holy; He commits no evil; we have come to understand from this scripture that the genuinely ignorant are not eternally condemned.  His word again provides the answer to a difficult question.  Dive in to the bible and you will find the answers you seek.  Meditate upon His precepts and He will use you to preach the gospel; to illuminate the uninformed, and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Through you, many will come to know His goodness, His mercy, and His love.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize Your perfect justice.  We acknowledge that You are good and not evil.  May we be equipped to answer every question we are asked.  Empower us through Your Holy Spirit; may we be bold; may we illuminate darkened minds, and preach the gospel to the ignorant.  May we be Your messengers in this place.  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.  

God honors those who honor Him

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed and is dreadfully tormented.”  And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  The centurion answered saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.  But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.  And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!  And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”  And his servant was healed that same hour. (Mathew 8: 5-13.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Roman Empire conquered the Holy Land in 63 B.C.; and due to the continued threat of rebellion, there were soldiers permanently stationed there in the first century.  A ‘centurion’ was an officer in charge of 100 soldiers; they were usually men of impeccable character.  This centurion came to Jesus and humbled himself; he publicly confessed his own unworthiness and praised him; in so doing he honored God’s Son.  Jesus then honored the centurion by publicly lifting up his faith above every Jew in Israel.  God continues to honor those who lower themselves and exalt Him.  Our savior has said that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

                In 1924 a Scotsman named Eric Liddell was expected to win Olympic gold in the 100 meter dash.  Eric had grown up in a missionary family and was a committed Christian.  He had been raised to faithfully observe the Sunday Sabbath (a weekly day of rest commanded by the Lord in the Old Testament.)  When Eric found out that the 100 meter dash was scheduled for a Sunday, he made the decision to ‘sit it out.’  He was pressured to run by his countrymen and by many powerful people, but remained convinced that honoring God on His day was more important than winning a medal.  A few months before the Olympics, he decided to begin training for the 400 meter dash (an event that wasn’t on Sunday.)  No one expected him to do well.  On the day of the race, while approaching the starting blocks, an American trainer placed a piece of paper in Eric’s hand.  There was a bible verse written on it.  1 Samuel verse 2:30 read, “Those who honor me I will honor.”  Eric ran that race for God; not only did he win the gold medal, he also broke the world record.  He had pushed his own desire for glory aside; because he honored God, the Lord exalted Eric above his fellows.   

                Placing God in His proper position necessitates humility.  Honoring Him requires selflessness.  We become less important and He becomes more important.  He is righteous and we are unrighteous; He is worthy and we are unworthy.  We forgo glory so that God may have it.  Only those who raise Him up in this life will be raised up into everlasting life.  Here we die, so in the future we may live.  There are so many ways to glorify God.  We can make Him a continued topic of discussion in our personal relationships.  We can pray to Him, and seek His counsel daily. We can give credit to the Lord for the good works that we do.  When we do something for another person, we can say, “This is from the Lord.” When a person attempts to thank us, we can politely remind them that Jesus Christ is the one they should thank.  When other people call us good, we can inform them that our goodness comes from God.  May we continually place the focus on Him; may we give Him the glory; may we honor Him with our lives; so that one day we might receive the honor he has promised to all those who believe.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, give us opportunities to honor and glorify You.  May our hearts be humble, and our minds pure.  Give us the strength to lay down our lives in this place, so that we might better serve you.  May we, through humility receive the gift of eternal life.  We love You Lord, we thank You, and we praise 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.


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