Archive for September, 2019

When Tragedies Become Blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

      Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is still day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing (John 9: 1–7.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      In the first century it was commonly believed that all deformity and dysfunction was the result of some form of personal sin.  Therefore the disciples inquired whose sin had caused the man’s blindness.  Jesus revealed that the man’s deformity came not from sin, but from the will of God.  By healing the man, God was honored and glorified.  Often the things that appear tragic, are actually designed to bring God the greatest glory.  Tragedy and adversity are not always punishments; in fact, they are frequently the greatest blessings we will ever know.

      In 2003 a 13 year old Christian girl named Bethany Hamilton was surfing when she was attacked by a 14 foot tiger shark.  The shark severed her left arm just below the shoulder.  After nearly bleeding to death, she was rushed to the hospital.  Prior to the injury, Bethany had been one of the world’s top competitive junior surfers.  Despite her strong faith, she questioned why God would allow her to endure such a tragedy.  She became determined to surf again competitively.  Trusting in God, Bethany entered the water 3 weeks after the accident and began training.  She started with a long board and then moved to a smaller board; until she was once again able to surf on a short board.  Because Bethany refused to quit she has gone on to place in and win many of the world’s top female surf competitions.  Her experience has become world famous. She has received thousands of letters and numerous awards; she’s appeared on ‘20/20, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show,’ to name a few.  She eventually published a book chronicling her struggles and victories (which was made in to a movie entitled “Soul Surfer.”)  Throughout her ordeal, Bethany has remained an outspoken Christian.  She thanks Jesus Christ for her strength, her courage, and her triumph.  Was losing her arm God’s will?  Yes.  What appeared to be a tragedy, has become the greatest blessing she has ever known.  With two arms she would have likely won some surf competitions; she might have even made it on to the cover of a surf magazine.  But with God in her heart and one missing arm, she has been able to reach the entire world.  She is now a symbol of faith and a living example of God’s ability to take the broken and make them whole again.

      Is there anything in your life that you struggle with; something that seems tragic; a source of shame or pain?  Take another look; you may find a wonderful blessing hidden within a seemingly apparent calamity.  Seek the Lord, and He will strengthen you and lift you up.  Lean on God, and let Him use you; He will take your weaknesses and turn them in to strengths.  And when He transforms your life, always remember to give Him the credit He so greatly deserves.  If you utilize God’s power and face your fears, many will come to see ‘the glory of God,’ revealed in you.       

“Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You turn our weaknesses in to strengths.  May Your enduring power and wisdom give us victory over the obstacles we currently face.  Heal us Father, and fill us with Your courage, that by faith, we may overcome our fears and shortcomings.  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.

Loving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And the scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat 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 not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness.  The majority of prostitutes, fornicators, and tax-collectors possessed no illusions of purity; in turn, they were capable of honestly evaluating themselves.  The religious leaders were blinded by pride; mistakenly believing they were righteous, they refused to accept God’s message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward real fellowship with God includes a genuine recognition of sin.  Many today are being crushed beneath the weight of guilt and shame.  Those who need healing the most are often the first to be rejected by the self-righteous.  And yet, although the world has forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

      Those who lived within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were few hospitals, and no retirement homes or assisted living facilities.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who became ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; many were left to die alone in the streets.  Still, as Christianity began to spread, so did attributes like mercy, compassion, altruism and love.  During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who had fallen ill.  They became known as “The Parabalani” (“The Reckless Ones”) because in caring for the sick, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they preached the gospel.  We might reasonably conclude that those who lay dying in the streets received salvation at a far greater rate than those were healthy.

      As Christians, we are called to reach out and to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing to receive God’s message.  May we never shun sinners, nor abandon the lost.  The Holy Spirit will provide every faithful believer with opportunities to preach the gospel, and to deliver healing to those who are afflicted.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we continue to be instruments of Your mercy, that many others might come to know true forgiveness and reconciliation.  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 Key to Happiness

JESUS SPEAKING

       And it happened, as he spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breast which nursed you.”  But he said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and ‘keep it’ (do it)” (Luke Chapter 11: verse 27 – 28.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       The word ‘blessed’ can most accurately be translated into our modern word for ‘happy.’  Those who are ‘blessed’ possess a genuine measure of peace, joy, and contentment.  In this scripture, Jesus emphasizes two essential steps, that when followed, lead to legitimate happiness.  First, an individual must become aware of God’s commandments and teachings.  Secondly, they must apply His doctrines in their lives and the lives of those around them.

       Concerning happiness, Americans are more depressed than ever.  From 1999 – 2014, the use of antidepressant medications increased by nearly 64%.  Approximately one in every ten individuals is currently taking some form of antidepressant.  Many however, are not suffering from chemical imbalances (although some might be); rather, they are unhappy because they either do not know God’s word, or they know it but refuse to apply it.  Those who are, at present, practicing serious sins, are consistently less happy than those who are not.  For instance, approximately 1.5% of women who are married report experiencing some form of depression; yet 5.1% of women living with a man before marriage report being depressed.  Further, those who engage in a homosexual lifestyle are more than 200% more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.   Additionally, men who watch pornography daily are 3.5 times more likely to experience severe depression than the general population.  Simply put, those who avoid sin are happier than those who do not.

       God lovingly gave mankind guidelines; and when they are followed, they lead to satisfaction and joy.  When His statutes are ignored, those who are disobedient can expect to experience emotional instability, depression, and fear.  The formula for achieving lasting happiness is uncomplicated; simply read God’s word daily and apply his teachings in every area of your life.  In so doing you will be blessed; you will avoid the misery of sin, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

       “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire genuine obedience.  May we read Your word daily and apply what we have learned in our lives.  May we act out Your commandments; may we love others; may we spread Your message; may we avoid sin, and in so doing, may we receive your eternal rewards.  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! 

Stay Focused on Today

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. However, 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 their daily nourishment. Violating this law meant focusing on tomorrow’s needs and concerns [In the new testament, 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you.

Staying Focused on Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

      [As Christ walked with Peter along the beach, he said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This he spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God […] Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on his breast at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”  Peter, seeing him asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?  You follow me?” (John 21: 18 – 22.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He ate with them; fellowshipped with them; and encouraged them.  He also privately took Peter on a walk along the beach (the apostle John followed at a close distance.)  The Lord told Peter that one day he would be crucified for his faith.  Peter, then inquired about the Apostle John’s fate.  Jesus gently rebuked him (such matters were not his concern.)  Jesus reminded him to remain completely focused upon his Lord and Savior.  Peter had made a very common error; a mistake that is still prevalent within the church today.  Many wrongly focus their attentions on other believers; or on their circumstances; or even on themselves.  However, Jesus Christ demands the complete and undivided attention of every faithful follower.

      How important is it to remain focused on Jesus Christ?  On another occasion the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.  Peter filled with faith, yelled “Lord if it is you […] tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “come.”  Peter got out of the boat, and began to walk on water; but as he approached Christ, he began to focus on the large waves that encircled him.  Because he had taken his eyes off of the Lord, he began to sink; he cried out to Jesus saying “Lord save me.”  Jesus grabbed him, and pulled him from the raging sea.  Peter’s faith waivered because he turned his attentions away from the messiah.  We can all learn from Peter’s mistake; those who are wise will continually remain focused upon Jesus Christ.

      This world is full of diversions.  We, like Peter, are all guilty of looking to the left and to the right; we have all misplaced our attentions; we have all succumbed to the numerous distractions in life.  Though we have failed in many ways, with God’s help, we can all once again refocus upon our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  May our trust, faith, and hope in him never waiver; for in him we find our strength, our salvation, and our greatest victory.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we look to Your Son, and we place our faith fully in Him.  Remove any distractions or diversions that exist in our lives and in our hearts.  May our attentions always be focused upon You.  Continue to sanctify us, that we might be fruitful.  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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