Archive for October, 2016

Compassion

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus answered him saying:  “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he looked upon him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and, and took care of him.  The next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend when I come next time, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 29 – 37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Samaria consisted of a community of pagan individuals living within the borders of the nation of Israel (just north of Jerusalem); as non-Hebrews they frequently engaged in immorality and idolatry; for this reason they were despised by most religious Israelites.  In fact, when traveling, many orthodox Jews would contemptuously journey around Samaria rather than through it.  After Jesus had confirmed the importance of loving one’s neighbor, he was asked to define what constituted a neighbor.  His reply came in the form of a story; in the narrative a man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road; two religious Jews passed by, without stopping to help (one a priest, and the other a supposed man of God.)  Soon after, a Samaritan happened by, and his heart was filled with compassion.  In order to preserve the man’s life, he gave of his time, his money, and his resources.  He showed true mercy and great generosity.  Many today, like the priest and the Levite are so concerned with what lies ahead that they fail to stop and help those who are hurting and in need of assistance.

                Some time ago, during a cross-country meet in Minnesota, a young man named Mark Paulauskas was injured in the first half-mile of a two mile race.  He had been spiked by another runners cleats (a wound that would eventually require 20 stitches and a walking boot.)  As Paulauskas cried out in agony, most of the other runners passed him by; they were focused more on the finish line than on the pain of an ailing opponent.  Yet, one individual heard his cries and was moved with compassion.  A runner named Josh Ripley willingly abandoned his vision of victory in order to stop and help; without hesitation he picked up Mark Paulauskas and carried him a half-mile back to the starting line.  After handing his wounded competitor in to the arms of the coaches, Josh Ripley sprinted off in to the wilderness to complete his race.  Although he did not win, he was victorious in the eyes of God.

                Our fleshly nature commonly causes us to become so focused on what lies ahead that we ignore those who are right beside us.  If we are not careful we can pass by those who are hurting, and ignore the call of God to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’  The world is cold and apathetic; yet in the midst of indifference, there are those who show great compassion and mercy; they give selflessly; they love unconditionally; they are examples of God’s Spirit in action; they are followers of Jesus Christ.  They are friends; they are family; they are neighbors; they are Christians.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always show sympathy toward those who are hurting and in need.  May we be relieved of indifference and filled with mercy.  May nothing ever be more important than compassion, nor greater than love.  Fill us to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit, that we might be examples of Your warmth in a world that is cold and apathetic.  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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Producing Fruit

JESUS SPEAKING

            “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12: 23 – 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Utilizing an agricultural metaphor, Jesus makes reference to His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.  A single grain of wheat, when planted, can produce hundreds, thousands, and even millions of additional seeds.  Similarly, the Lords’ suffering and agony upon the cross (and ensuing resurrection) has produced much fruit.  His selfless sacrifice has inspired countless conversions, and enabled millions to receive the mercy and grace of God.

            In the 1800’s there resided a little girl from Philadelphia name Hattie Wiatt.  She lived in close proximity to a popular and very crowded Grace Baptist Church.  One day she approached the Church and asked to attend the Sunday school.  Sadly she was told that there was no more room.  Less than two years later, Hattie fell ill and passed away.  A pocket book containing 57 pennies was found underneath her pillow; it was wrapped in a piece of scrap paper; written on the paper was a note that read, “To help build the little temple bigger, so that more children can go to Sunday school.”  She had saved her pennies for 2 years intending to give them as a donation to the church.  The pastor told his congregation of Hattie’s selflessness.  Immediately donations began pouring in until they had collected nearly $250,000 dollars.  Soon the church was seating 3,300 people; the parishioners also chose to build a hospital as well as a university accommodating approximately 1,400 students (today, attendance at Temple University has grown to nearly 28,000.)  Hattie’s sacrifice, although small, has gone on to produce much fruit.

            Like Hattie, we are called to selflessly lay down our lives to “build the little temple bigger.”  To sacrifice our own wants and desires so that others may come to know the love of God.  When we serve our fellows, love our neighbors, and give to those in need, we bear much fruit.  Those who strive to live selflessly will come to know peace; true peace; heavenly peace; eternal peace; “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

            “Lord Heavenly Father, You are truly an amazing and awesome God.  We desperately desire to be selfless; we yearn to lay down our lives so that others may come to know You.  Help us to enjoy and embrace serving, giving, and loving.  May we produce much fruit and bring many souls into Your everlasting 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.

Daily Bible Reading

JESUS SPEAKING

                So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word then you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8: 31-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                God, in His wisdom, has chosen to use language (words) to reveal Himself to mankind.  The written and spoken words of God and of His only Son Jesus Christ are recorded within the pages of The Holy bible.  These words have the power to grant eternal life; to purify and to heal; to transform and to enlighten.  The word of God can do so many things; but unless it is utilized it can do nothing.  Daily scripture reading is essential for the growth of the believer; a dusty bible is a reflection of the heart of its owner.

                Francis A. Schaffer was a brilliant 19th century American scholar and theorist.  As a young adult he had been eagerly studying the works of the Greek philosophers; in his quest for knowledge he had been exposed to many interesting questions; for which there were no answers (he nearly drowned in theory, speculation, and conjecture.)  At this time he was also attending a very liberal church on the weekends, which failed to provide him with the answers he desired (because they did not preach bible based sermons.)  ‘He thought, “I wonder whether I should stop calling myself a Christian, and discard the bible?”  Then he reconsidered; [and] faced the fact that he had never read the bible.’  In desperation he began reading the scriptures for himself; his amazement grew with every turn of the page.  He had finally found the answers to his questions.  His curiosity had led him to a genuine faith in Jesus Christ.  Francis Schaffer never stopped reading the bible.  He committed the rest of his life to helping others discover the truth he had recieved from God.  [Note:  I myself grew up in a very liberal church.  I attended weekly services, took communion, and even served as a cross-bearer.  Yet I was never instructed to read the bible; therefore, the scriptures played no role in my daily life.  I spent my early years steeped in confusion; not knowing that within the pages of God’s word lay the instructions for life.  One day I picked up the bible my church had given me (upon my conversion) and began to read it on my lunch breaks.  Like Mr. Schaffer, I too discovered the truth; since then the word of God has completely transformed my life (without it, I don’t believe I would be alive today.)]

                Nearly 130 million books have been written throughout human history.  Every year 50,000 new titles are published.  Yet in a sea of literary works, only the Holy Bible contains the truth.  The bible transforms lives; it creates affection, produces kindness, and generates love; it relieves addictions, and delivers from despair; it can heal the sick and bring hope to the hopeless; it contains the answers to life’s deepest questions; it is a powerful tool; yet like all tools, it can do nothing unless it is put to use.  Read God’s word and discover your purpose.  Grab hold of the promises of God and never let go.  Open His Holy Scriptures and you will neither stumble nor stray from the path that leads to everlasting life.

                 “Lord Heavenly Father, show us the importance of daily bible reading.  May we cling to Your words as a dying man clings to his last breath.  Instill in us the desire to seek You.  May we be transformed through the power of Your word.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we may be more like Your Son; may others see our lives and praise Your Name.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Expecting an increase

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)  ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had no intentions of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth (contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him.)  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and distant return.  Parables (short stories) forced the listeners to think; through contemplation, they could find the deeper spiritual truth.  Every story had characters, and every character represented a real life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went in to a far country to become king symbolized Jesus, who ascended in to heaven (and now reigns with divine authority.)  He too, like the nobleman, promised to return.  The rebellious citizens, who hated the nobleman, exemplified all those who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples (followers.)  In the parable, he gave them each a different amount of money.  The money, likely represents the measure of faith Christ has given every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In our illustration there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and made great efforts to spread the gospel.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  The unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of all his possessions and numbered with the rebels.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; but Jesus sternly expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

                The surface of the earth is clothed in garment of green.  There are thousands of different kinds of trees and everyone is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it; that tree is the mighty redwood;  these behemoth’s can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  The tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt (approximately 1,500 years before Jesus was born) this little redwood was just beginning to sprout.  These trees are so large, it is difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  Redwood seeds are just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow to be large, some remain small, but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men by the hands of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

                Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our king returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given him.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of your great king and mighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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 Real Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

            And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of me” (Mathew 11: 2-6.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            After baptizing Jesus, John came to believe that Jesus was the messiah they had been waiting for.  He, like so many in Israel believed the Messiah would set them free from their oppressors.  Everyone was waiting for Jesus to usher in an earthly kingdom that would put an end to Roman Rule.  John (who had been imprisoned by Herod) was growing impatient with Jesus and sent messengers to him to ask if he truly was the messiah.  Jesus simply responded by quoting an Old Testament prophecy that stated the messiah would cleanse lepers, heal the blind, raise the dead and preach to the poor.  Jesus wanted John to know he was accomplishing all of these tasks.  The Lord finally addressed John’s impatient heart, saying, “blessed are those who are not offended because of me.”  Jesus had not met John’s expectations; John had expected a conquering messiah, not a messiah that would conquer sin through crucifixion (the lord was encouraging John to accept him as he was.) Many today, like John, have an inaccurate view of Jesus Christ.  Knowing the real Jesus is essential to truly following him.

            Early on in my relationship with God I made the decision that I could no longer call myself a Christian unless I actually knew who Jesus Christ was.  I knew I had to read the bible; I also knew it was going to change and challenge my beliefs.  In my heart, I had an unclear picture of God.  I chose to let go of what I thought I knew in order to grab hold of the truth.  As I read, I began to know God personally and accurately; instead of being disappointed, my heart was lifted up with wonder and amazement.  The real God is far greater than any God I could have ever imagined.

              Do you know Jesus Christ?  Do you know his words, or are you holding on to your own expectations.  Have you invented a Jesus for yourself, or have you come to know the real Jesus?  Read his words, get familiar with his works, his message, his truth, and I promise, you will never be disappointed; instead, you too will find something more amazing than anything you have ever known, and your life will never be the same.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to know the real Jesus.  We want to know Your Son and his message.  Implant his words within our hearts and help us to be his disciples, that we might be pleasing to You Father.  Help us to let go of our fear of the truth, and give us a hunger and thirst to know our messiah; your gift to us all.  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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