Archive for June, 2017

Want Forgiveness, Then Forgive

JESUS SPEAKING

          And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them.  And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery.  And when they had set her in the midst, they spoke, saying to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such a person should be stoned.  But what do you say?”  This they said testing him, that they might have something with which to accuse him.  But Jesus stooped down and began writing on the ground with his finger, as though he did not hear.  So when they continued asking him, he stood up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”  And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  And Jesus was left alone, and the woman was standing in the midst.  When Jesus had stood up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8: 2 – 11.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          The Pharisees had likely heard Jesus teaching about the importance of grace and forgiveness.  In turn, they brought to him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  Under Old Testament (Mosaic) law, she was to be stoned to death.  The religious leaders had hoped he would show mercy and speak out against God’s commandments.  However, instead of condemning her, Jesus placed her fate squarely into the hands of her accusers (but not before reminding them of their own sins.)  To condemn her would be to invite God’s judgment upon themselves.  Therefore those who wished to continue receiving the Lord’s mercy had no choice but to be merciful.  One by one they threw down their stones until no one was left to condemn her.

           In the book of Ecclesiastes (Chapter 7: verse 21) we are given the reason why many struggle to show mercy.  Verse 21 reads, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.”  According to Solomon, forgetting our past and current sins will lead to anger and an inability to forgive.  The key to showing mercy therefore, is to be aware of our own shortcomings and to remember God’s forgiveness [Note:  There was a time when driving in traffic was rather frustrating for me.  Whenever someone would accidently cut me off, I would become angry and bitter.  One day however, I recall that someone swerved into my lane and I reacted quite differently.  I remember a feeling of peace and acceptance that I had never felt before.  The peace came from my mind; from a single thought; I recalled that I myself had many times unknowingly strayed into another lane.  I was guilty of accidentally cutting off other drivers.  Having remembered my own imperfection, I was able to accept and forgive others for being imperfect.]

          Whenever we feel bitterness, anger, and hatred toward others, it is likely that we have forgotten who we are.  We are sinners saved by grace; we are imperfect human beings; we also make mistakes.  When we remember rightly that we are inadequate and deficient, we will experience true humility.  How can we refuse to forgive others when God has forgiven us of our sins?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire humility and seek after Your truth.  May we never forget that we are sinners saved by grace.  Remove any bitterness that rests within us, and replace it with love and understanding.  May we continually receive Your mercy, and may we in turn grant that same mercy to others.  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.

When Traditions Oppose God’s Will

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples transgress against the traditions of the elders?  For they don’t wash their hands before they eat!”  Jesus replied, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God commanded you saying, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘he who curses his father or mother, let him be put to death.’  But you say that if a man says to his father or mother ‘Whatever financial support you might have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ thus he doesn’t need to ‘honor his father or mother’ with it.  Therefore you nullify God’s commandment for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites!  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you saying:  “‘These people draw near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mathew 15: 1-9.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Over the course of many centuries, the Jewish people began to elevate their own traditions above the commandments of God.  One tradition required the people to ritualistically purify their hands before eating a meal.  The religious leaders condemned the Lord and his disciples for not observing this custom.  In turn, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for allowing one of their traditions to nullify God’s fifth commandment (“honor thy father and thy mother.”)  The tradition known as ‘Corban,’ made it acceptable to commit any or all of one’s wealth to God (and to the temple treasury.)  In turn, any money needed to care for or aide ailing parents or loved ones became null and void.  God did not create this tradition; for if He had, He would have clearly outlined it in scripture.  Jesus Christ does not honor the traditions of men; instead, he and his followers obey the laws and commandments of God.

          There is no doubt that the Amish people possess a zeal for God.  Unfortunately, at some point, the Amish community contracted a serious case of ‘rigid traditionalism.’  They became paralyzed by rituals not outlined in scripture; rendering them nearly incapable of effectively evangelizing anyone other than their own children (evangelism is the requirement of every believer; Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”)  The (old order) Amish have made their customs a requirement for Church membership.  New members must become farmers.  Automobiles, radios, and televisions are prohibited; electricity can no longer be utilized; bicycles and wrist watches are forbidden; photographs are shunned; married men must grow beards and telephones can only be used outside of the home for business purposes, etc. (What began as a desire to not be conformed to the evils of society, has rendered them incapable of reaching the lost.) (Note:  Not all Amish traditions are wrong; many do have their genesis in scripture:  modest dress, pacifism, and the sanctity of marriage, to name a few.)

          Today, there are countless Christian denominations (non-essential practices have caused numerous divisions.)  Many have placed traditions above the laws of God.  Potential believers in Christ are seen as potential believers in the church.  But the Father has one set of standards; He has laid out what pleases Him in a book (the Holy Bible.)  Any requirements of a church not founded on God’s word are the rules of men; such rules can serve to confuse, divide, and neutralize the people of God.  (Note:  Does this mean churches that have non-biblical traditions are evil?  No.  All churches contain a measure of ‘traditionalism.’  However, we must never allow non-scriptural traditions to gain power and prominence.)

          “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to avoid being victims of ‘traditionalism.’  May we always honor Your commandments above man-made practices.  Help us to find common ground with all those who believe.  Give us the strength to live by Your word; may we know each precept and every teaching; may we never replace Your word with our own understanding.  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.

The Presence of Prophecy

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then he gathered the twelve, and said to them privately, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For he will be delivered to the gentiles and will be mocked and spitefully treated and spit upon.  They will scourge him and kill him.  And on the third day he shall rise again” (Luke 18: 31-33.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Although Jesus foretold of his impending death upon the cross, his suffering had been described in detail for hundreds of years.  Throughout the centuries, the Old Testament prophets, (inspired by God) wrote about the arrival of God’s solution to sin; a sacrifice that would once and for all put an end to the iniquity that separated the divine creator from his fallen creations (Jesus Christ, was and is that sacrifice.)

          One major prophetic scripture comes from the book of Isaiah; a book written between 740 and 680 B.C.  Chapter 53 is particularly interesting because it describes the suffering of Jesus in great detail (hundreds of years before the crucifixion occurred.)  We read, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare his generation?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. And they made his grave with the wicked — but with the rich at his death, because he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief.  When you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  He shall see the labor of his soul, and be satisfied.  By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors”

          Only God knows the future; only the creator can foretell of events before they occur.  Accurate prophecy is a characteristic, unique to the Holy Bible.  No other book or set of sacred writings have ever correctly predicted anything.  The scriptures are the Lord’s reliable revelation; they can be trusted.  As you read the word, remember, you are not simply reading a book compiled by men, but a book authored by God Himself.  May it inspire you, lead you, and transform you.

          “Lord Heavenly Father we praise You and thank You for providing us with the Holy Bible.  As we read it, may we approach it with reverence and respect.  Speak to us through Your word; with every sentence read, and every page turned, may our hearts be transformed; may we become more like You and Your wonderful Son.  We love You Father, we thank You, we praise 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.

You are called to be a disciple

JESUS SPEAKING

           “A disciple is not above his master (teacher), but everyone who is properly taught will be like his master” (Luke 6: 40.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          God is called ‘the most high,’ because elevation has always been how human beings distinguish between the valuable and the invaluable.  People honor things by lifting them up.  In ancient times, when a king stepped down on level ground with a group of his subjects, those subjects would lower themselves beneath him; many would bow, others would kneel.  If the king was a child, then his subjects would sprawl out face first on the ground to make sure the king stood above them.  The teacher and student relationship is quite similar (as Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher”) The disciple, or student, must realize his or her lack of knowledge (they lower themselves); the teacher then becomes the superior source of necessary information (they are lifted up.)  In exchange for their humility and ability to learn, the disciples were promised that they would become like Jesus.  Anyone who lacked this type of humility could not be a follower of Jesus then, and cannot be his follower today.  A person who believes they have a better way, or who desires to learn from sources other than the Lord, cannot be properly taught.

        A long time ago, I was caught in a dilemma…I remember calling up a friend for advice on a situation that had made me absolutely furious.  In the middle of the conversation she said, “What would Jesus do?”  I tried to shrug it off, and replied something like, “Well, he’s Jesus, I can’t be like him.”  The question cut deep in to me; the answer to how to react to the situation wasn’t debatable; rather, it had a face, and a name, and that name was Jesus Christ.  I was not called to behave in my own way, but to behave just like him.  After all, a disciple is someone who is a student and follower of their teacher.  My teacher and master was, and is Jesus Christ.  If I desired to be properly taught (a disciple), I knew I needed to be completely submitted to him.

          You as well are called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  How does that process begin for you?  First, you must humble yourself and lift him up.  Jesus Christ must become the moral authority in your life.  Get rid of any competing teachers, and make his words the foundation upon which your life and your actions are built.  Daily gospel reading is essential.  Commit some of your time daily to the study of his words.  The gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, and the book of Revelation contain his spoken words, and descriptions of his behavior; only by knowing your teacher can you be properly taught; only by humbling yourself before the living God can you become his disciple.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You now and ask to become Your disciples.  We lift up Your Son and we ask that He become our teacher.  Jesus, speak to us, and to our hearts, and mold us and shape us in to Your image.  Remind us of all of the words that You have spoken, and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we may minister to all those You place in our way.  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.