Archive for November, 2015

Completing the Journey

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build but was not able to finish?’” (Luke 14: 27 – 30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS        

                Following Jesus Christ isn’t easy; instead it requires great sacrifice and tremendous discipline.  Uncomfortable changes will inevitably follow every genuine profession of faith.  Each believer is called to abandon sin and embrace a life of selflessness and service.  Those considering the Christian life are urged to “sit down first and count the cost.”  Drunkenness, fornication, pornography, adultery, lewdness and idolatry must be thoroughly discarded.  Gossip, foul language, dirty humor, and selfishness must also be crushed beneath the weight of purity, love, mercy, and truth.  Unfortunately, many who begin following the Lord are unable to finish their journey; abandoning God’s call, they eventually return to their old lives.

                Interestingly enough, the longest Bridge in the world is the Danyang—Kunshan Grand Bridge in mainland China.  This modern marvel took four years to build and cost approximately 8.5 billion dollars.  As it snakes over rice patties, lowlands, and rivers, it measures a whopping 102 miles in length.  Bridges are amazing feats of engineering; and yet despite coming in a variety of different shapes and sizes, they all serve one common purpose; they connect two portions of land divided by an obstacle.  Although most of these structures are quite useful, an unfinished bridge is of no value whatsoever.  Ninety percent of a bridge is as useful as ten percent of a bridge.  In order to be valuable the structure must be complete.  Much like a bridge, the life of every believer is utterly useless unless it has been completed.  Throughout the centuries there have been many genuine disciples who died knowing that they had kept the faith until the very end.  Sadly, many more were unable to complete the journey.

                In proverbs Chapter 20, verse 25, we read, “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.”  If you have never made a commitment to following Jesus Christ, then you must not do so rashly.  You must first consider fully what God is asking from you.  He is asking you to lay down your sins and embrace a life of purity; you must also devote your entire existence to serving and loving others.  For those who commit themselves to the Lord, the road is not easy.  There are no points for half-way.  Once the journey has begun, it must be finished.  Only then will we enter God’s eternal kingdom; only then will we know unending peace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we have already begun our journey with You.  We’ve laid down our worldly ways and embraced purity and love.  May we continue moving forward and may we never falter.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit; empower us to complete what we have started, that we might one day enter Your kingdom.  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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Avoiding Covetousness

JESUS SPEAKING

 

                Then one from the crowd spoke to Jesus saying, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”  And he said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12: 13 – 15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

 

                Jesus fervently warned his followers to avoid covetousness.  Those who covet strongly desire the belongings of others; as a result they lack the proper gratitude for what they have been given.  Due to the destructive nature of this particular sin, God gave mankind the tenth commandment; which states: “You shall not covet (desire) your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet (desire) your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”  Covetousness is dangerous because it can lead to a number of other sins such as theft, adultery, and even murder.

                In ancient times, King David was an extremely powerful man who possessed great riches.  He had countless wives and concubines at his disposal to satisfy his physical needs.  Yet, one evening, while walking along the rooftop of his palace, his eyes beheld a woman bathing naked.  Her name was Bathsheba; the spouse of a military commander named Uriah.  David abruptly began coveting her, and eventually committed the act of adultery.  He was soon informed that Bathsheba had conceived and was with child.  After numerous attempts to cover up his dreadful deed, David finally had Uriah murdered in battle; thus taking Bathsheba to be his wife.  King David was later judged for his sin and the penalty was severe.

                As faithful servants, we must be careful to continually maintain a spirit of gratitude, and to take pleasure in what the Lord has given us.  In so doing, we will fulfill the tenth commandment and avoid covetousness.  May we never desire the possessions of others; may we always remain grateful for what we have been given; and may God grant us true contentment and everlasting peace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many blessings.  Fill us continually with unending gratitude and genuine appreciation.  If we have broken the tenth commandment convict our hearts and help us to change.  May we never desire the possessions of others; but instead take pleasure in the gifts that You have given us.  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.

Blessings and Cursings

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you […] for the Son of Man’s sake […] for indeed your reward is great in heaven […] But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6: 20-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The pronouncement of blessings and cursings was an intimate part of the Jewish culture.  Many Israelites would bring their children to the Rabbi’s to undergo a formal blessing.  A blessing is a prophetic profession of some future good in an individual’s life.  A cursing however, foretells of some impending calamity.  The blessings that Jesus pronounced over the crowds were entirely dependent upon their reaction to his message.  Those who chased after the passing pleasures of this life would ultimately enter into unending sorrow.  Those who chose to deny their own desires in order to serve God would eventually inherit eternal rewards.  Without question, every true believer must embrace sacrifice.  Some common sacrifices include wealth, a career, power, property, selfish indulgences, and even a good reputation.  Because the path to peace with God includes enduring some form of present pain, the majority of individuals will continue to reject the gospel message.

            In order to understand this scripture, we need only look at the modern day credit card crisis.  Right now Americans possess more individual debt than any time in our nation’s history.  This current epidemic is the direct result of extreme self-indulgence.  When a person goes out shopping and they can’t afford something, they will often use a credit card to avoid having to deny themselves of some passing pleasure.  But paying for things with money we don’t have doesn’t make the pain disappear; it simply postpones it.  Eventually the credit card company is going to come looking for their money; causing those who have fed their fleshly appetites to endure the suffering they so desperately attempted to avoid.

            Many people have spent an entire lifetime avoiding pain and indulging in pleasurable endeavors.  However, their agony has only been deferred, rather than eliminated.  They will eventually be required to ‘pay the check.’  Chasing after wealth, material possessions, careers, and even a good reputation can lead to an eternity of pain.  Still, self-denial is the way to inherit eternal blessings.  Volunteering, giving our excess wealth to the needy, spending time listening to others, evangelizing, as well as visiting widows and orphans, are just a few of the ways we can deny ourselves in this life.  Where are you currently denying yourself?  What do you have in excess?  Is it time, money, or knowledge? What can you give away?  By denying yourself, you will become a servant of the living God; and in the coming kingdom, you will receive the blessings of eternal life.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to willingly endure pain in the present; that we might refuse our own desires in favor of fulfilling Your purposes.  May we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow You.  Reveal to us where we can be more selfless; where we can be more giving; and where we can be more loving.  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.

Guiding others to the Lord

JESUS SPEAKING

                While journeying through Samaria, Jesus became tired and sat down next to a well; as he rested, he began speaking with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water; during their conversation he revealed to her the intimate details of her life; details that only God Himself could know.  Amazed and astonished, ‘the woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet […] I know that the messiah is coming (who is called Christ.)  When he comes he will tell us all things.”  Jesus answered her saying, “I who speak to you am he.” […] The woman then left her water-pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?” […] And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in him because of the word of the woman who testified saying, “He told me all that I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans had come to him, they urged him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his own word” (John 4: 19 – 41.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                One fateful afternoon, Jesus Christ chose to reveal himself to an immoral woman who was attempting to draw water from a well.  She was completely unaware that on that particular day she would find the Son of God and receive salvation and eternal life.  Upon hearing every intimate detail of her life, she becomes overwhelmed with joy.  The astonished woman therefore leaves her water-pot behind and enters the city; seeking to lead others to Jesus.  As expected, those who chose to follow her eventually received the free gift of God.  Everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ becomes his messenger.  Having been redeemed, they must then strive to lead other sick individuals to the ‘Great Physician;’ the only one capable of mending their wounds and healing their broken hearts.

                Like our ‘Great Physician’, there was once a missionary Doctor who was practicing medicine in one of China’s many hospitals.  As he sought to alleviate the suffering of his fellows, he surgically healed a man afflicted with cataracts (a clouding of the lenses of the eye that causes blindness.)  A few weeks later, 48 blind men arrived from the wilds of china (each one seeking to undergo the same incredible procedure.)  Incapable of proper navigation, they were clinging to a rather long rope.  Not surprisingly, the man who had been cured was guiding them.  These desperate men had journeyed nearly 250 miles prior to safely reaching the hospital.

                There are so many people in this world who have been blinded by sin and death.  These individuals need someone to guide them toward the ‘Great Physician.’  Like the Samaritan woman, those who have been enlightened are given the task of leading others to Jesus Christ.  As ‘reborn’ Christians we are instruments in the hands of an almighty God.  If we are willing, He will use us to reach out to our family members, co-workers, and friends.  Our singular task is to testify concerning the wonderful works that He has accomplished in the lives of all those who believe in Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  May we be amazed every day by Your miracles and righteous deeds.  Help us to embrace our obligation to lead others to Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to witness to our family members, co-workers, and friends; that they would hear our words and greatly desire the free gift of eternal life.  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.

Fear versus Faith

JESUS SPEAKING

            Now it happened, on a certain day that he got into a boat with his disciples.  And he said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  And they launched out.  But as they sailed he fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him and awoke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  Then he arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.  But he said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?  For he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him!” (Luke 8: 22-25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Sea of Galilee is the lowest (below sea level) freshwater lake in the world.  Because it sits beside the Mediterranean Sea, warm and cool air collide, often creating fierce storms that arise almost instantaneously.  Jesus and his disciples were crossing this body of water when a violent squall engulfed them; threatening to capsize their vessel.  As the Lord slept peacefully in the back of the boat, his disciples began to panic.  Fear had caused them to forget who was riding with them. They also failed to recall that moments earlier he had said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake;” thus ensuring that they would successfully complete their journey. After being awakened from his nap, the Lord calmed the wind and the waves; subsequently asking them, “Where is your faith?”  Fear and faith are natural enemies.  The presence of one often signals the absence of the other (and vice versa.)  Most people become fearful when they lose faith in the God who dwells within them; a benevolent creator who will never leave them, nor forsake them.  As David once wrote in Psalm 23, “I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.”

            Many years ago, I regularly interacted with a man who frequented the coffee shop where I often studied.  He habitually appeared to be under a great deal of stress. He seemed fearful, anxious, unsettled, and distracted.  One day, he leaned over and said, “Can you give me a scripture, or something from the bible that will help me to remember that ‘God will never give me more than I can handle?’”  So I recited the story of Jesus calming the storm.  Although the disciples feared that they were going to capsize and drown, God kept them from perishing.  I told the man that the size of the waves and the level of desperation were unimportant; instead, what truly mattered was who was riding in the boat with him.  I proclaimed that if Jesus was in his heart, he would always remain afloat.

            Today, our lives are like vessels sailing across the surface of the ocean.  Sometimes the sea is tranquil, and sometimes it’s stormy. However, those who invite Jesus to accompany them on their journey will receive God’s promise; for the Lord has declared that every true believer will eventually make it to the other side. No one traveling with the Son of God will ever slip beneath the waves.  By means of His divine power, He will calm the wind; He will quiet the seas; and you will receive the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”  When you feel afraid, simply remember God’s promises and continue moving forward. Cling to the faith and you will live, because the Lord is with you.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that Your Son would accompany us as we journey through this life.  Protect us from the storms that might arise along the way. Increase our faith. May we never fear, knowing that You are always with us.  Grant us Your mercy, Your wisdom, and Your peace.  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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