Archive for August, 2016

Gratitude and Humility

JESUS SPEAKING:

               “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5: 3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS:

                In this scripture, the phrase “poor in spirit” refers to the attribute of humility (a precious treasure that creates joy in the hearts of all those who possess it.)  Practicing humility means acknowledging that God is the giver of all good things.  The Lord provides us with our food, shelter, clothing, careers, relationships, and all of the other necessities of daily living.  He has complete power over all of creation; the very air we breathe is a gift from Him.  Although the humble offer God many praises, the prideful acknowledge only themselves; they mistakenly believe that everything they possess is the product of their own intelligence and hard work.

                Nebuchadnezzar was one of the mightiest kings who has ever lived.  He became ruler of the Babylonian empire in 605 B.C.  Like most powerful men, humility was not one of his greatest attributes; he demanded that his subjects worship him in the manner of a God.  One day as he strolled leisurely through his palace, he spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”  Before he was finished speaking, a voice came from heaven saying, “The kingdom has departed from you […] your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven years shall pass over you, until you know that the most high rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4: 30 – 32.)  Indeed, because the Babylonian King had failed to give God the credit for his possessions, he slipped in to madness and began acting like an ox for seven years.

                As believers we must not make the same mistake as Nebuchadnezzar.  Instead, we must acknowledge that all good things come from God; that every possession is a blessing and a gift.  Those who desire to enter God’s kingdom would do well to continually honor Him.  Practically, Christian humility can be expressed through prayers of gratitude offered to God daily; we can also say grace before meals and praise the Lord in our private time and during worship services.  Tithing is another acknowledgement of God’s goodness.  Ultimately whatever form of thankfulness we choose to offer, it should come from the heart; and from a deep appreciation for everything that God has so graciously given us.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many gifts and provisions; for our food, our clothes, and our homes (to name a few.)  We recognize that all good things come from You.  Help us to maintain a spirit of gratitude and humility.  Cleanse our hearts of pride, that in lowliness we might better serve You and our fellows.  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.

Fearlessly Spreading the Gospel

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mathew 10: 29-31.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ commands every believer to boldly preach the gospel.  Some will be despised and rejected; many will be ridiculed and threatened; still others may even face death.    No matter the consequence, the faithful must never remain silent.  Those who fear man cannot obey God, for men may kill the body, but God has the power to condemn the soul for all eternity.  The ancient Israelites feared God and in turn suffered great hardship.  They were conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans.  Each new conqueror imposed laws that made honoring God punishable by death.  At one time circumcision was outlawed; Jewish mothers caught circumcising their children were crucified.    Another law made it a requirement for the Jews to make sacrifices to pagan God’s; the many faithful followers who refused were immediately put to death.

                In the sixth century B.C., three young Jewish men feared God more than men.  A powerful King named Nebuchadnezzar resurrected a large golden statue in his own likeness.  On the day it was unveiled he called together the rulers of the provinces and the peoples of every nation; they were commanded to bow down and worship his image.  The multitudes were warned that anyone that refused would be burned alive.  Three faithful believers named, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego refused to obey (choosing to offend the king rather than to anger God.)  They were bound hand and foot and cast into a fiery furnace.  As the king watched he saw a fourth person with them in the flames; somone who protected them; a man who looked like the ‘Son of God.’  When the boys emerged from the furnace unharmed, the king pardoned them and proclaimed the awesome power of the one true and living God.  Much like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, the apostles remained faithful.  Many were beaten, humiliated, imprisoned and tortured because they refused to remain silent.  Eventually, eleven of the twelve disciples were put to death for the sake of the gospel.  According to church history, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.  Andrew, Simon, and Thaddeus were also crucified.  Bartholomew was crucified after having his skin cut off.  Philip was crucified and then stoned to death.  James was beheaded by King Herod.  Thomas was stabbed to death and Mathew was killed with an ax.  James the less was clubbed to death and Mathias was burned alive.  Although they perished for the faith, they are not dead; they are alive with Christ, in his eternal kingdom.

                Every disciple is called to boldly preach the gospel; to speak the truth in love no matter the consequence.  Today many are suffering persecution; in Muslim countries, Christians are being attacked and beheaded; in communist countries they are being imprisoned and tortured.  Yet in the United States, many professing Christians won’t even lean over and tell a stranger that Jesus loves them.  Won’t you reach out in love today?  Won’t you speak up and tell your friends and family about Jesus Christ?  Present the gospel to your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances; for when you honor God, God will honor you; and you will walk in eternal fellowship with Him in His kingdom.

                “Heavenly Father, take away our fear of death and our fear of others; may we fear only You.  May Your words and Your message burn within our hearts and may the gospel freely flow from our mouths.  May we share eternal life with all those who have been persecuted and put to death for their faith in Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to share the truth with others in love.  We thank You Father, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Christ’s Replacement

JESUS SPEAKING

            “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14: 25-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Lord informed his disciples that he would soon be taken away from them.  In his absence, he promised to send them a replacement; a helper; someone to guide and direct them; a spiritual entity that would remind them of all of his teachings.  After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus ascended in to heaven; having reached his eternal position, he sent the Holy Spirit in to the hearts and minds of every believer (on the day of Pentecost.)  The disciples began to speak in foreign languages; they were given the power and authority to forgive sins; to cast out demons; to raise the dead; and to heal the sick.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was, and is, proof that Jesus Christ did reach his destination; the work of the Spirit today confirms that he is still seated at the right hand of God; a place of honor from which he continues to guide and direct his church.

                In the early 20th century a bold and daring explorer named Roald Amundsen set out to reach the remote poles of the earth.  He succeeded in reaching the South Pole in 1911, and the North Pole in 1926.  As the story goes, during his northern journey, he took along a homing pigeon (homing pigeons mate for life; in turn, when separated from their mates they have a unique ability to return to their nests from anywhere in the world.  Before leaving for the North Pole, Amundsen, not wanting his wife to worry, promised to release the pigeon when he reached his destination; when the bird arrived at its nest in Norway, his wife was elated.  The pigeon was a symbol; a message proclaiming that although the explorer had arrived in a distant land, he was very much alive.

                The Holy Spirit is also a symbol; it is a message and a reminder that Jesus Christ still lives.  Many have received the message, many have not.  Those who have opened their hearts to God’s messenger have acknowledged that Jesus is their Lord and master.  That he is a living God; that He currently guides and directs His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you have never received His gift, go somewhere quiet, and ask God to provide you with the Spirit of truth.  The Lord never withholds this good thing from those who genuinely ask Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son, and that he is seated at Your right hand.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit; guide and direct us; teach us, and remind us of Your ways.  May we be faithful believers; may we never waiver; may we never grow weary, and may we never turn away from Your truth.  May You continue to use us to fulfill Your will in this place, until the time when we will see You, face to face.  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.

Living in the moment

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mathew 6: 34.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Apprehension, fear, and anxiety are destructive emotions that cause turmoil in the hearts and minds of most human beings.  Although the majority of our worries revolve around some real (or imagined) future difficulty, they usually cause us distress in the present.  Such uncertainties can steal our joy and distract us from the work that God has currently called us to accomplish.  Therefore, Jesus commands every believer to live in the moment and to focus wholly and completely upon the blessings, cares, and concerns of today.

            In the Old Testament book of exodus we are given a wonderful illustration that emphasizes the importance of living in the moment.  After leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea the Jewish people wandered about in the wilderness for forty years.  Each day God miraculously fed them by causing a delicious bread to condense and accumulate on the desert floor.  No one was allowed to collect and store excess amounts of bread (except on the day prior to the Sabbath.)  Instead, they were only permitted to eat what was necessary to sustain them daily.  Violating this law meant focusing on tomorrow’s needs and concerns [When asked how one ought to pray Jesus reiterated this doctrine; we are told to ask God to, “give us this day our daily bread.”  Not our weekly, monthly, or yearly bread; but rather, “our daily bread.”]

            Fear of tomorrow serves only to distract us from the joys, blessings, and obligations of today.  When we focus on the present we are fully able to accomplish God’s will.  As we trust in the Lord we can begin to cherish every second, of every hour, of every day.  To live now is to live for God; knowing that His love is a present gift and not a future possibility.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to live in the moment and to rely upon You for our daily needs.  May our concerns and our cares be firmly rooted in the present.  If our hearts possess fears and anxieties related to the future, remove them, that we may be joyful, loving, and better able to serve You today.  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.

The Resurrection

JESUS SPEAKING

              “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him” (Luke 20: 34 – 38.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The resurrection from the dead is a central tenant of the Christian faith.  Jesus Himself rose from the dead, revealing that everyone who has faith in Him will never die; instead, although the body may temporarily perish, the believer’s spirit continues on in God’s eternal kingdom.  When God establishes a new heaven and a new earth, every faithful soul will receive an eternal body.  A body that does not grow old; diseases will be obliterated; death and suffering will not exist.  Pregnancy will no longer be necessary; marriage also will be a thing of the past.  Everyone will live in perfect fellowship with one another, and with God Himself.

            To prove that there is life after death, Jesus quoted an Old Testament scripture.  In Exodus 3: 6 God says to Moses, “I am […] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (present tense.)  He doesn’t say I was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (past tense.)  Although Abraham Isaac and Jacob were physically dead, they were, and are still spiritually alive, living peacefully in God’s eternal kingdom.

            There comes a time when every human being must make the journey from this life to the next.  For those who believe, death is not the end; it is merely the beginning.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the vessel that carries us in to the presence of the almighty and everlasting Father.  May your faith remain strong as you are transformed in to the image of your savior; and may God comfort you as you eagerly look forward to your eternal future with great hope and joy.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we faithfully await the resurrection of the dead.  We know that you have prepared a special place for us in Your eternal Kingdom, and we look forward to that day with great pleasure and overwhelming gladness.  Sanctify us, and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might do Your works and accomplish Your will 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.