Archive for July, 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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God’s Enduring Love

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8 – 10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The greatest question one can ever ask is, “Does God love me?”  The answer expressed in this parable is Yes.  Every character in a parable has a corresponding real life counterpart.  The woman who lost her coin represents God and the coins represent all faithful believers.  The lost coin represents those who have wandered away from God (Men and women who unknowingly subject themselves to painful and destructive experiences.)  God desperately seeks after those who are estranged (sparing not his only Son, to reveal His love for the lost.)  Despite the Lord’s long and arduous attempts at reconciliation, He is often painfully denied.  For those who truly understand the depths of His love, it becomes clear why there is such a joyful celebration in heaven when a single sinner repents; The Creator has once again found a lost son or daughter; someone precious and unique; someone who is completely irreplaceable; someone He will cherish for all eternity.

                The Old Testament book of Hosea is a glimpse in to God’s enduring love for those who do not love Him.  Nearly 800 years before Jesus was born, God commanded the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman (a woman who was adulterous and unfaithful.)  Hosea was instructed to continually seek after her, and to continually forgive her for her indiscretions; in turn, he lived a tormented life; constantly loving a woman who did not love him (possibly going so far as to even raise a child he did not Father.)  The book of Hosea is a record of his heartache.  God used Hosea’s experience as a real life illustration; an illustration of His relationship with mankind.  The Lord has sought after, and loved even the worst sinners throughout history; yet most have returned his love with disbelief, hatred, contempt, and idolatry (worshiping other Gods.)  God’s heart aches for the lost; those who call Him Father, share in that same heartache.

                Like Hosea who never stopped seeking after his wife, God continues to search for the lost.  He stops at nothing; He spares no expense; He never falters; never grows weary; never takes a day off.  Even today, in coffee shops, in places of employment, in homes, and in public, His message of love and reconciliation are being preached.  As people continue to give their lives back to God, heaven is erupting in celebration.  Will you carry God’s message?  Will you seek after the lost?  Will you do the work of God?  Will you tell others that there is a God who desperately loves them; a God who waits for them; a God who can heal them; a God who will give them true life?  You too will experience rejection and heartache; but you will also experience true joy when you witness a sinner receive salvation.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your love.  We thank You for constantly seeking the lost.  May we be reconciled to You today; help us to experience the joy You are so freely offering.  May we reach out to others; may we be instruments of Your love; may we too, lovingly seek those who are lost.  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.

Don’t be lukewarm

JESUS SPEAKING

                “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:  I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish that you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth […] as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3: 14 – 16, 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                After being seized by the Romans, the Apostle John was marched in to a crowded coliseum and plunged in to a vat of boiling oil.  But when he remained unharmed, masses of people within the coliseum began to convert to Christianity.  The Romans, fearing his influence, placed him in prison on a deserted Island off the cost of Turkey (known as Patmos.)  Church tradition teaches us that on this island, in about the year 95 A.D., an aging John (the last living Apostle) received a revelation from Jesus Christ.  In this revelation Jesus addressed the seven churches located in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  The Laodicean church had become lukewarm in their faith; they were once bold, zealous, and uncompromising.  Yet, over time they succumb to personal comforts, complacency, and routine.  Jesus sternly rebuked them; his command: be zealous again; reach out; be bold; spread the gospel; be eager to do good and to serve; and work hard to save souls.  God’s message to the Laodiceans is timeless; it pertains to the church today.  There is no half-way; a moderate faith is a dead faith.  For the believer there are no vacations, no breaks, and no retirement.  Those who stop serving God fully, are in danger of becoming lukewarm, cold, and dead.

                Interestingly enough, a recent study revealed that early retirement can lead to an increased risk of death.  In 2005, three groups of people were studied; those who retired at 55; those who retired at 60; and those who retired at 65.  “In this research, death was almost twice as likely in the first 10 years after retirement at age 55 compared with those who continued working.”  The tendency to take it easy and relax can have disastrous results.  To lose enthusiasm for God’s message is to fail to fulfill the highest calling of God.  We must fervently work for the Lord until he returns to gather us together.

                Are you eager to serve God and others; or have you been serving yourself?  Are you on fire for the Lord, or have you become cold?  Are you readily spreading the gospel, or have you fallen silent?  Have you faded in to the background, or do you speak the truth in boldness?  Be brave and reach out for Christ.  May your heart be ignited by the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit.  May the words of God flow from your mouth, and may your good works never cease; may God use you to transform the lives of others; and may you represent the church of God with conviction and zeal.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit and cause our hearts to burn for You.  Grant us boldness and faithfulness.  May we shine brightly in the lives of all those we meet.  Give us the words to speak, and the strength to continue.  May we never grow weary or become lukewarm; may we never cease from serving others, knowing that one day we will have our rest in You.  Lord, we love You, 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.

Relying on God’s Power, Not ours

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night, for it is written:  ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”  Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you” (Mathew 26: 31-35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

               Peter boldly rejected Christ’s prophecy; he vainly exalted himself above the other disciples, saying, “Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I will never be made to stumble.”  Despite great effort, he would go on to deny the Lord three times before morning.  Without Jesus, Peter failed to maintain his faith in the midst of crippling fear (The Lord had been his comforter; his protector; and his provider; without him, Peter became as weak as any other man.)  Jesus promised that he would eventually send a replacement; after his resurrection and ascension, he fulfilled his commitment; Peter and the other disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost [the Holy Spirit is the fullness of God dwelling within the human heart.]  After receiving God’s Spirit, Peter’s strength was restored; he immediately entered a crowded temple and boldly preached the gospel.  The Peter that denied Christ leaned on his own strength; the Peter that proclaimed Christ relied upon God’s power.  For the sake of Christ, Peter went on to endure beatings, imprisonment, persecutions without number, and even death [he was crucified upside down in the city of Rome.]  Without God, it is impossible to accomplish even the simplest tasks.  With God, it is possible to move mountains.

               Peter shares the experience of divine empowerment with some other notable men of the bible.  While the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, a young Hebrew man named Moses who had grown up in Pharaoh’s household, believed it was his destiny to free his people.  One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian task master, beating one of his countrymen.  Filled with rage, and a sense of duty, he killed the Egyptian.  In an effort to conceal his crime, he buried the body beneath the sand.  The body was discovered, and a few days later, Moses’ life was in jeopardy.  Alone, and defeated, he fled to the desert and became a shepherd.  For decades he cared for livestock.  At the age of 80 God appeared to him and instructed him to return to Egypt to free his people.  He responded by telling God he wasn’t ‘the right man for the job.’  He no longer believed he was capable of accomplishing the task.  A once prideful and self-reliant young man, had become an old man who recognized his own weakness (apart from God); he was finally ready to be used by the Lord.  The young Moses, with his own power, was unable to bury a single Egyptian.  The mature Moses, with God’s power, led a nation to freedom, and buried the entire Egyptian army beneath the waves of the red sea.

               Western culture promotes self-reliance; in the divine culture, reliance upon God is paramount.  Is there anything in your life that you are trying to accomplish on your own?  Are you attempting to endure a difficult trial unaided?  Are you struggling to overcome an addiction in isolation?  Do you look to God for provision, or are you the provider?  Your best efforts will never compare to the works of God.  No matter how large the obstacle, or how great the need, if you humble yourself, you will harness the power of the one true and living God.  Do this, and you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4: 13.)

               “Lord Heavenly Father, we honor and praise You.  You are an amazing God.  Apart from You we are weak and incapable of accomplishing good things.  Be our strength; may we rely upon You and not upon ourselves.  Give us victory over the things that cause us to stumble; may we stand firm, may we endure, and may we overcome.  May our hearts be humble, and our lived filled with joy.  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.


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