Archive for September, 2015

Blessings come from sacrifice

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 certainly no exception. Although salvation is free, reconciliation requires sacrifice.  The cost for following Jesus Christ is often quite high; most believers will endure persecution, affliction, and numerous hardships.  In turn, genuine obedience frequently produces loss; the loss of possessions, property, and prestige; the loss of a home, a career, and even certain family members and friends; some have even laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel.  Still, from the time of the resurrection until today, not one righteous sacrifice has ever been committed in vain; for God has promised to replace each offering with something far greater.  To die as a peaceful martyr is to live forever in the His Kingdom.  To lay down our earthly possessions is to grab hold of God’s eternal riches.  To suffer affliction for righteousness is to one day experience unending freedom and everlasting peace. And yet God’s rewards aren’t solely relegated to the heavenly realm. He also provides the faithful with many earthly blessings; wives, husbands, children, careers, possessions, 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 any potential fame and fortune to serve God.  When he announced his decision not to return for his final season, his coaches were mystified; many of his friends thought he had gone crazy.  Those who were worldly thought he was making a very serious mistake.  However, approximately four years after making his decision, Greg told me he had never been more satisfied.  He is now joyfully serving the Lord; he also has a beautiful wife and a young child.  By sacrificing much he has received a number of priceless blessings in return; “and in the age to come, eternal life.”

                The Christian path requires great sacrifice.  Letting go of what is useless and grabbing hold of what is good isn’t without consequence.  Obedience to the Lord produces loss; yet for every earthly loss there is a heavenly reward.  Trust in the Lord; sacrifice any meaningless and unprofitable areas of your life and place them upon God’s Holy altar; submit yourself to His leading and you will experience all of the blessings that He has promised to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to sacrifice our lives in service to 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 to provide, and 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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Rejoice in Persecution

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mathew 5: 10 – 12.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                From the time of the resurrection until today, true believers have always been verbally and physically persecuted for their faith.  Of the original 12 disciples, 11 were violently murdered, and the twelfth was imprisoned for life.  Throughout the centuries, the body of Christ has suffered affliction; millions have been martyred; many more have been discriminated against, despised, and socially ostracized.  Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”  Because persecution is a sign of genuine obedience, many are able to take pleasure in adversity; in the midst of hardship the faithful are not without a sense of peace; for to endure pain for Christ is to experience great joy, and to suffer and die for him is to understand what it means to truly live.

                Throughout the fourth century, the Roman Empire was actively persecuting professing Christians.  In the year 320 A.D. a group of believing soldiers from Rome’s twelfth legion paid the ultimate price for their faith.  The Emperor Licinius decreed that every Roman soldier was obligated to offer sacrifices to the pagan Gods.  Forty Christian men refused to obey his command; in turn, they were immediately ordered to disrobe. After being marched on to a frozen lake they were informed that they could return to shore at any time, as long as they were willing to obey (the officers had even prepared hot baths for those who chose to relent.)  As they froze, the exposed soldiers huddled together and began to sing songs and to praise God; in their hour of suffering they expressed overwhelming joy.)  One by one, they perished.  Sadly, a single solitary man did relent; but astonishingly another soldier who had been observing the spectacle was so moved by what he had seen that he instantly gave his life to Jesus Christ; he removed his clothes and walked out on to the ice to join his dying brothers.

                Persecution is a part of genuine faith.  Those who oppose God, will oppose those who follow Him.  Obedience can produce much suffering.  When we suffer for righteousness, we can rejoice and be glad, knowing that we serve the Living God.  We must take up our cross; we must speak the truth; we must love without question, and give without stipulation.  We must walk by faith and avoid compromise.  In so doing, God will strengthen us in the hour of our greatest need; He will comfort us; He will give us victory; and we will inherit the riches of His Eternal Kingdom.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, as we undergo trials give us strength and fill us with Your Holy Spirit; that we may rejoice in suffering and persecution.  May we always praise Your Name; in good times and in bad.  May we never compromise; may we never be conformed to the image of this world.  May we live for righteousness and may we die for virtue.  Father, we love You, 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.

The Vine

JESUS SPEAKING

                “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away; every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it might bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them in to the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples” (John 15: 1-8.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                In the first century, grapes were a highly prized commodity grown in Israel.  Most were familiar with how grapes were cultivated.  Many sizable fruit producing vineyards consisted of individual sections; each section possessed a main vine that sprouted from the ground and stretched at great length; this vine delivered valuable nutrients, such as water and minerals to the smaller fruit yielding branches.  In this parable, Jesus likens himself to the vine; his disciples, in turn, represent the branches.  God the Father is the vinedresser, or caretaker, who nurtures and cares for the fruitful stems; and like any good farmer, he prunes them; cutting away the twigs that are unproductive.  These unfruitful stalks represent those who claim to be Christians but consistently practice worldly ways. God also sanctifies his children by removing evil habits, thoughts, and actions from the hearts and minds of those who believe; making them more pure; more holy; and more righteous.  Jesus revealed that every true follower must allow his words to abide in their hearts and minds.  Therefore, daily bible reading is an essential part of achieving and maintaining a Godly life.

                On the night that I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I was given a cheap paperback copy of the New Testament.  I threw it in the back of my car, and rode around with it for days, not giving it a second thought.  Still, something began to stir in my heart; I suddenly felt the urge to read it.  I chose to utilize my lunch breaks at work to dive in to the scriptures.  As I read, my faith commenced to grow; my life began to change in new and wonderful ways; my spirit became strong and I began to do, say, and act more like Jesus Christ.  A peace came over me; my hatred and resentments were swallowed up by the grace and mercy of a loving God.  Today, I still read the bible; I have made scripture, and the words of Jesus Christ my foundation for living.  I keep them close; in my heart and in my mind; and they have produced much fruit in my life and the lives of those around me.

                Today there are many who willfully pass by the scriptures and pay them no mind; most are unaware of the transforming power of God’s word.  Such people, cut off from the true source of spiritual nourishment, go on to wither and die.  Still, there are those who do comprehend the value of daily bible reading; these individuals grow strong and produce much fruit.  Their hearts and minds find rest; their actions exemplify the love of God; and their lives become instruments of righteousness and peace.  So then the important question is, when was the last time you made daily bible reading a part of your life?

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask that Your words would abide in us.  Give us a hunger to read the scriptures daily; that we might grow strong and be Your disciples.  May we discover Your truths and may we bear much fruit for You.  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.

The secret to happiness

JESUS SPEAKING

                And it happened, as he spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breast which nursed you.”  But he said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and ‘keep it’ (do it)” (Luke Chapter 11: verse 27 – 28.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The word ‘blessed’ fairly accurately translates in to our modern word for ‘happy.’  Those who are ‘blessed’ possess a genuine measure of peace, joy, and contentment.  In this scripture, Jesus emphasizes two essential steps, that when followed, lead to true happiness.  First, an individual must become aware of God’s commandments and teachings.  Secondly, they must apply His doctrines in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

                Concerning happiness, Americans are more depressed than ever.  From 2005 – 2008, the use of antidepressant medications increased by nearly 400%.  One in every ten individuals is currently taking some form of antidepressant.  Many however are not suffering from chemical imbalances (although some might be); rather, many are unhappy because they either do not know God’s word, or they know it but refuse to apply it.  Those who are actively committing great sins are consistently less happy than those who are not.  For instance, approximately 1.5% of women who are married report experiencing some form of depression; yet 5.1% of women living with a man before marriage report being depressed.  Further, those who engage in a homosexual lifestyle are more than 200% more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.  Additionally, men who watch pornography daily are 3.5 times more likely to experience severe depression than the general population.  Simply put, those who avoid sin are happier than those who do not.

                God lovingly gave mankind guidelines, which when followed lead to satisfaction and joy.  When His statutes are ignored, the disobedient can expect to experience emotional instability, depression, and fear.  The formula for achieving lasting happiness and complete peace is uncomplicated; simply read God’s word daily, and apply his teachings in every area of your life.  In so doing you will be blessed; you will avoid the misery of sin, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire true obedience.  May we read Your word daily, and apply what we have learned in our lives.  May we act out Your commandments; may we love others; may we spread Your message; may we avoid sin, and in so doing, may we receive your eternal rewards.  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!