Archive for April, 2016

Gratitude

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now it happened as he went to Jerusalem that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  So when he saw them, he said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  And so it was that as they went they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks.  And he was a Samaritan.  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Arise, go your way.  Your faith has made you well” (Mathew 17: 11 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Leprosy is a debilitating bacterial disease that has existed for thousands of years; it causes fingers, toes, and other extremities to rot away, horribly disfiguring its victims.  Despite modern treatments, Leprosy remains highly contagious.  As a result, the infected have been ostracized since the days of Christ; lepers were forced in to isolated colonies outside of the cities.  When traveling, they were required to maintain great distances between themselves and the healthy; when entering crowded areas, they were obligated to yell out, “unclean, unclean,” as a warning for others to keep a safe distance.  The lepers who approached Jesus stood “afar off;” and pleaded with him to heal them.  Although nine of the lepers were Jewish, one leper was a Samaritan (The Jews considered Samaritans half breads; because when Alexander the great conquered Israel hundreds of years earlier, he settled a portion of the land (known as Samaria) with Greek citizens and retired soldiers; they mingled with the Jewish people, but were unable to completely adopt Hebrew customs and traditions.  The Samaritans were so hated that many Jews would travel around Samaria when journeying to Jerusalem; the only people more hated than Samaritans were lepers.)  Jesus ordered the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests (In Jewish society, the priests were charged with diagnosing leprosy; if someone was healed, the priests had to examine them before they could return home to their families.)  As they journeyed, all ten lepers were outwardly healed; but only one was inwardly healed.  The dirty Samaritan, filled with gratitude, returned to praise and honor Jesus Christ.

                There was once a prominent doctor who was a devoted golfer.  His long time caddie had a club foot (a deformity in which the foot bends inward, making it difficult to walk.)  ‘Doc Gordon,’ as he was known, often traveled south for the winters to continue his golf game.  One winter, he decided to take his caddie with him; during their trip, the doctor operated on the man’s foot and he was made completely whole.  Soon after they returned, the doctor became ill and passed away.  One day, the caddie was carrying another member’s bag; at every hole he stopped to pluck a flower, until eventually he had gathered a very beautiful bouquet.  The member was curious and asked the caddie about his new girlfriend.  He replied, “Oh no, I don’t have a girlfriend.  These are for Doctor Gordon.  I go to his grave twice a week and place these flowers there.”  Over his lifetime, Doctor Gordon had helped thousands of sick people; he had corrected many physical ailments, and prolonged the lives of numerous individuals.  Yet, only one patient was truly thankful; the young caddie continued to praise and honor his deceased friend and benefactor because his heart was filled with gratitude (This illustration was a parable taken from another source; whether the characters were real, is not certain.)

                Jesus Christ has healed and given life to so many people, but only those whose gratitude is a daily expression, have truly experienced a miracle.  There are a number of ways to show your gratitude for God; prayers of thanksgiving; testifying of His greatness; gathering together with other believers; worship and singing; acts of love on His behalf; service work; care giving; charity, etc.  Have you received the gift of healing and eternal life?  Gratitude is a fruit of true salvation; those who understand the value of what they have been given, honor and praise God every day (Note:  If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, please contact us and we can discuss how you can do that today.)

                “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You; we honor You; and we thank You for our salvation.  We are unworthy servants, and yet You love us.  Thank You for healing us and protecting us; thank you for Your kindness and provision.  You are truly an awesome and amazing God.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude; may we be compelled to speak to others of Your greatness, and may we be filled with Your Holy Spirit.  We love You Father, and we honor 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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Divine Transformations

JESUS SPEAKING

                He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come to call sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 27-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Tax collectors in Israel were Jewish citizens who had ‘sold-out’ to the Roman Empire, and turned against their own people.  The Roman taxes were severe, and tax collectors earned their wages by overtaxing the people; in turn, they were passionately despised.  The religious leaders were enraged because Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners.   Jewish meals were extremely intimate affairs; those who dined together dipped in to the same bowls and drank from the same cups.  Most Jews were very careful who they ate with, because they falsely believed that sin could be transferred from person to person through the sharing of food.  The Son of God however, was not concerned with being contaminated by the sins of those he dined with.  Instead, his purity was contaminating and cleansing the dirty hearts of those who ate with him.  The messiah, the chosen one, sent of God had a distinct purpose; he came to seek the lost; he came to bring light in to the darkest of hearts; he came to cleanse the dirty, and to reach those the world had set aside and rejected.

                In 1464 a block of Marble weighing nearly 9 tons was shipped to the workshop of the Cathedral of the Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy.  An artist was commissioned to carve a massive sculpture of a young King David.  It is said the artist abandoned the project because the piece of marble contained too many flaws (or veins—veins in marble are weaker than the surrounding stone, which can cause it to crack and break.)  So the flawed block sat in the yard for nearly a decade; until another artist was commissioned to continue the work; apparently he also foresaw problems with the veining in the marble and walked away.  Again, the scarcely carved stone block was pushed to the back of the yard where the sun, wind, and rain beat down on it for nearly 25 years.  Then in 1501 a 29 year old sculptor named Michelangelo looked at the stone optimistically.  He didn’t see an old dirty block of marble taking up space; he didn’t reject it as a defective throw away, fit for the trash heap.  Unlike the other sculptors, Michelangelo saw the giant slab, not as it was, but as it could be.  Michael Angelo accepted the commission to complete the work because he believed that he could create a masterpiece from a worn down, dirty block of marble.  In 1504, after nearly 3 years of work, the Statue of David was completed; immediately it was marveled over; its beauty and elegance were heralded by even the harshest of critics.  Today, the statue of David is on display in Florence Italy, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful marble sculptures ever created.

                Like Michelangelo, Jesus Christ is a master craftsman whose purpose is not to attempt to improve perfect people, but to take the worst people and transform them in to divine works of art.  As followers of Jesus Christ, our duty is to reach out to those who are outcasts.  Rather than turning our backs on sinners, we are to embrace them in love.  We shouldn’t just see sinners for who they are, but instead, as who might become (with the assistance, love, and attention of an all powerful divine creator.)  Reach out to the lost; make friends with the weak; dive in to the trash heap and pull out the people the world has discarded.  He has sent us in to the world to reach those who have gone astray and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Are you willing to be an instrument God can use to accomplish a masterpiece?

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask that You use us to reach those who are sick.  Give us a heart for everyone the world has rejected.  We yearn to be instruments that You can use to transform the lives of sinners.  Therefore we lay ourselves at Your feet and place our lives in your capable hands; make use of us as You see fit.  Father, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

Being Teachable

JESUS SPEAKING

                [The Lord had just finished healing a blind man; but Jesus was gone by the time the man’s eyes had completely healed.  The Pharisees, seeking to expose Jesus as a fraud, brought the man in for questioning.  After a lengthy examination, the Pharisees banned the man from their synagogues because they hated their messiah.] […] ‘Jesus heard that they had cast him out (the blind man he had healed); and when he had found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He answered and said, “Who is he Lord that I may believe in him?”  And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen him and it is he who is talking with you.”  Then he said, “Lord, I believe!”  And he worshipped him.  And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”  Then some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these words, and said to him, “Are we blind also?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘we see.’  Therefore your sin remains”’ (John 9: 35 – 41.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                There are two kinds of disciples; those who can be taught, and those who can’t.  Although there are many reasons why some students fail to learn, the most pervasive is pride; a student who already knows everything is no longer teachable (rigid intellectualism is stupidity impersonating true wisdom.)  Those who possess great knowledge are often the most misinformed.  For example, many religious leaders who interacted with Jesus were very well educated; they were proud of their intellectual superiority; they were blinded by pride and they rejected the Son of God.  In turn, when Jesus Christ chose his followers, he did not seek scribes or rabbi’s; nor did he approach priests and Holy men.  He did not scour the ancient centers of higher education; nor did he hunt for scholars at the great theological institutes of his day; instead, he lovingly embraced fishermen, prostitutes, and tax collectors; he selected them because they were eager to admit their ignorance (and to listen in humility); because they were willing to learn, societies outcasts became God’s first choice.

                Historically, surgeons have been society’s most well educated professionals.  In the 1800’s most surgeons wore white butcher’s aprons; as they operated on different patients, more blood would accumulate on them.  Most Doctors refused to wash them, because a strange but powerful custom had arisen; a surgeon was considered accomplished based upon how bloody his apron was (the more blood, the better the surgeon.)  During this time, a young doctor named Joseph Lister was conducting medical research; he discovered that 40-50% of amputee victims died from secondary infections (infections that resulted from the procedures themselves).  He proved that cleanliness and disinfection of surgeons, instruments, and staff, would reduce the amputee mortality rate to 15%.  The results of his research however, brought him in to conflict with the majority of his colleagues.  Most surgeons scoffed at his suggestions because it meant they would have to give up their bloody aprons.  Many educated men became unwilling to learn.  Their delay in applying Dr. Lister’s suggestions caused the deaths of thousands of patients.  Although the changes were slow, they were eventually established.  By the time Joseph Lister retired in 1893, nearly every medical institution had implemented his sanitation procedures.

                Pride can blind even the most intelligent people; much learning often stands in the way of true comprehension.  Those who know everything are not teachable (and unable to follow God.)  Those who admit their ignorance and let go of any ideas that oppose the teachings of Jesus Christ, are wiser than all of the scholars, scientists, and doctors who have ever lived.  Disciples must become blind before they can see; they must be ignorant before they can attain true wisdom; they must be willing to lay down human understanding, before they can pick up the cross.  Listen to the Lord and He will guide you; have faith in Him and you will know truth; follow Him, and you will enter in to everlasting peace [Note:  Not all educated people are ungodly; God has gifted many people with great minds; there are also many uneducated people who reject Jesus Christ.  Learning is very beneficial, but only if it does not oppose the teaching of the Lord.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we be Your disciples; may we be blind to the wisdom of the world.  Help us to know the difference between prideful philosophies, and beneficial information; that we may always choose what is good and reject what is evil.  Teach us, instruct us, and make us willing to learn.  We admit that we are ignorant, and in humility we ask You to lead us.  We desire to have childlike faith; may we trust You completely, and may we know the blessings of Your eternal wisdom.  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!

In Spirit and in Truth…

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ encountered extreme opposition while preaching near the city where he had been raised.  Many had seen him grow from infancy in to adulthood; they were very familiar with his family; and that familiarity created in their hearts great disrespect and disdain.  The Son of God therefore prophesied that they would reject him and that, in turn, he would bring the message to complete strangers.  Jesus referenced two Old Testament prophets who endured similar experiences.  Elijah and Elisha were messengers of God who were rejected by many of their fellow Hebrews; therefore, God used them to bless foreigners.  Elijah for instance, pronounced a three year drought upon the nation of Israel due to the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time Elijah stayed with a poor widow woman in a foreign land where God miraculously provided for all of their needs.

                The Lord’s initial priority was to bring the gift of salvation to his own countrymen.  The majority of them however rejected Jesus as their messiah; therefore God, in His wisdom, offered the kingdom to anyone who was willing to receive it.  Paul was a disciple who boldly preached the gospel throughout the ancient world; he planted numerous churches, and was used to bring many to the faith.  Yet his love for his fellow Jews never waned.  Upon entering a city, he would first venture in to the synagogue to preach; after he was rejected, he would take the message to the gentiles (non-jews) (who were more than eager to receive the Holy Spirit.)  God’s plan has always been to use his Son to bless all nations, and tribes, and tongues; because Jesus Christ was rejected, those who are strangers have been lovingly received.

                Today membership within the body of Christ is open to all; there are no limitations; there are no ungodly requirements; true faith is not bound by race, language, or ethnicity.  God in His wisdom has chosen to make salvation available to everyone.  No longer can one nation claim God for themselves.  He has ceased to reside solely amongst the descendents of a single individual; nor, does He dwell within sacred buildings and religious institutions.  He cannot be worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem; instead He lives within the hearts and minds of those who have received Him (for God is seeking men and women who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”)  May you receive the Lord and be blessed; may His peace overwhelm you; may His love possess you; that you may be the man or woman God has called you to be.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your plan of salvation.  We thank You that all who desire to know You today can.  May we receive more of Your Holy Spirit.  May we draw near to You with our hearts and with our minds.  May we worship You, honor You, and praise You with every word that we speak, and with every action that we take.  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. 

Love for God

JESUS SPEAKING

            “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14: 21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            True affection for Jesus Christ is not merely some immeasurable, intangible feeling; instead, it is expressed outwardly through actions, words, and deeds.  Those who genuinely love God’s only Son attempt to remain obedient to His commandments; as faithful believers, they seek to implement his teachings in every area of their lives.

            Marriage is one of the greatest blessings a person can receive from the Lord; it provides those who are willing with the opportunity to practice the Christian principles of selflessness and service.  Just as love for Christ is manifest in obedience, so too, adherence to the desires of a spouse is a measure of our love for them.  Some time ago my wife asked me to fix some shelving in our closet; a task I gladly accomplished.  She also asked me to do the dishes before leaving for work; I did them, and later she thanked me for my efforts.  If I did not love her, I would have ignored her requests in order to indulge in my own selfish desires.

            Like a spouse, Jesus Christ has asked us to accomplish many things; to adhere to His teachings and to obey His commandments.  The pathway to conformity is paved with the bricks of knowledge.  Only by reading the words of Jesus can we know what He is asking of us.  Read His words daily and God will give you the desire and the ability to accomplish His will [His teachings are contained within the pages of the Holy Bible; specifically within the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.  A condensed version is found in Mathew, Chapters 5 – 7; a discourse commonly known as ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’]

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for sending Your Son to teach us what it truly means to love.  Bring to our remembrance all of His words, that we might adhere to His teachings and obey His commands.  May we lay down our lives to serve and love others as He so willingly did.  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.