Archive for December, 2019

Trust in God

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then he got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s (Peter’s), and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And he sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When he had stopped speaking, he said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon (Peter) answered and said to him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. When Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5: 3-8.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      The disciples had just finished fishing, and having caught nothing, they were busy cleaning their nets for the day.  Jesus told Peter to push out one last time and drop his nets.  Although he didn’t want to, Peter obeyed Jesus and pushed out to sea.  Because of his obedience, they caught more fish than they could’ve ever imagined; so many that the net was nearly bursting.  In recognition of this miracle, Peter humbled himself and fell down before Jesus.  His understanding of who Jesus was had abruptly transformed.  Peter had witnessed a miracle because he didn’t permit his experience as a fisherman, or his own reasoning to compete with the commandment of Christ.  Peter didn’t push out into the water because he expected to haul in the largest catch of his career; instead he pushed out into the sea because he was being obedient to Jesus Christ.

      Each of us woke up this morning with many preexisting expectations.  We expected our alarm clocks to work, our cars to start, and our cell phones to be functional; we have learned to rely upon them; we trust in them.  We can trust our gadgets, and even our own instincts and abilities, but when it comes to trusting Jesus Christ, we often have difficulty? Peter initially questioned Christ’s command to ‘push out;’ preferring instead to rely upon his own understanding and knowledge.  And yet he eventually witnessed God accomplish a wonderful work, because he stopped trusting in himself and began to trust in God. 

      Today, we need to trust in God and not always our own limited understanding.  We must be obedient to what God is calling us to do.  Is there some area of your life where you are refusing to relinquish control?  Search your heart.  God has called each of us to be obedient to His commands.  Obedience is often difficult, but unless we obey God we will never experience any of His miracles.  May we all ‘push out’ and always place our trust in the almighty and everlasting God.

      “Dear Heavenly Father, help us to relinquish control over our lives and give them back to You.  Lord Jesus, please help us to be obedient.  Fill us with the Holy Spirit, that we might have the faith to trust in you.  Reveal to us any areas where we are walking in error, and help us to change.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we trust 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 took the twelve aside and said to them, “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 insulted and spit upon.  They will scourge him and kill him.  And the third day he will 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; the book was 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 theymade 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 word 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.

Making Amends

JESUS SPEAKING

    “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mathew 5: 23-24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    No one can have a close relationship with God in a vacuum; human beings live within complex social structures; these communities are made up of family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.  Our relationship with others is a direct reflection of our relationship with God.  When we sin against our neighbor, we have also sinned against our Lord.  If we lie, slander, and despise another person, we have lied, slandered, and hated our own creator.  In the first century, many Jewish families traveled long distances to reach the temple in Jerusalem; where an animal would be sacrificed to atone for their sins; having received forgiveness, they were restored to a right relationship with God.  Similarly, Jesus has also taught us that we are to first seek out reconciliation with our neighbors; only then can we draw ever closer to the Lord.  Today, this commandment, known as ‘making amends,’ is still an essential Christian practice.

    When I came to California many years ago, I began working a 12-step program; a system designed to help me overcome a terrible drug addiction.  The creators of the first six steps were Christians; a gathering of believers known as the oxford group.  Naturally, the steps were heavily influenced by the teachings found in the book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians, verse 13.  After becoming a Christian, I discovered that Christ’s command to make amends likely inspired the founders to create the 8th and 9th steps as well.  The eighth step reads, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”  The ninth step reads, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  From 2005 until today, I’ve continued making amends to those I’ve harmed.  I’ve made restitution and paid off every delinquent debt; I’ve also asked for forgiveness from those who were affected by my sins.  With every apology I’ve grown ever closer to the Lord.

    Today, in order to move forward with God, you might consider delving into your past.  Examine your previous mistakes more thoroughly.  If you’ve stolen from anyone, pay them back; if you’ve lied, and your lies have caused hardship, return and speak the truth.  If by mistreating others, you have created resentments, you are commanded to humble yourself, and request forgiveness.  Making amends is an important Christian practice.  We’ve all sinned; but what we do with those sins will determine whether we grow closer to the Lord or remain at a distance.  The choice is ours to make.

    “Lord Heavenly Father, bring to our remembrance the names of those we have harmed; may we approach them and make restitution.  Give us the strength and the humility to ask for forgiveness; that we might be reconciled to those who are resentful.  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!

Want Forgiveness, Then Forgive

JESUS SPEAKING

      Now early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them.  Then 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 very act of adultery.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do you say?”  This they said testing him, that they might have something of which to accuse him.  But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, as though he did not hear.  So, when they continued asking him, he raised himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  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 standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one other than 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.  So, 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 in 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 individuals find it difficult 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 own past sins, will result in anger and an inability to forgive.  The key to showing mercy then, is to be aware of our own shortcomings; and to remember God’s forgiveness [Note:  There was a time when driving in traffic was extremely frustrating for me.  Whenever someone would accidently cut me off, I would become angry and bitter.  One day however, someone swerved into my lane; but for the first time my reaction was quite different.  I remember a feeling of peaceful acceptance wash over me.  The peace came from my mind; and from a single thought; on past occasions I myself had unknowingly strayed into other people’s lanes.  I too was guilty of accidently cutting off other drivers.  Having remembered my own imperfection, I was able to accept and forgive another human being for their imperfection.]

      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 who make mistakes.  When we remember rightly that we are inadequate and deficient without Christ, we will experience true humility.  How then can we refuse to forgive others when God has forgiven us of our sins? 

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire humility as we 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 bestow that same mercy upon 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!

Fasting

JESUS SPEAKING

     “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.  For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But I say to you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting; but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Mathew 6: 16 – 18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Fasting is an ancient practice that elevates the spirit above the desires of the flesh.  Denying the body sustenance (food) for a time is a sacrifice that God honors; those who practice it draw near to Him and are given greater control over their fleshly impulses.  Many individuals were fasting for the wrong reasons; therefore, Jesus warned His followers to fast in secret, and to avoid disclosing their endeavors to others.  In so doing, they would reap the spiritual rewards they so richly deserved.

     Jonathan Edwards was an evangelical pastor who lived in New England in the 1700’s.  He wasn’t a very articulate man; nor was he astoundingly charismatic; yet on July 8th, 1741, he gave one of the most stirring sermons ever preached to a congregation; the sermon was entitled, “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God.”  The response from those in attendance was amazing; many came to rededicate or fully commit their lives to Jesus Christ.  How did a man with very little natural ability accomplish such a feat?  He fasted for three days and three nights before giving his speech.  His repeated prayer to God was, “Give me New England.  Give me New England.  Give me New England.”

     Like Jonathan Edwards, we too can use fasting and prayer to accomplish wonderful things for God.  Some may fast for days, others for shorter amounts of time; no matter the length, every period of fasting is accompanied by a blessing.  Each time we deny ourselves food and dedicate ourselves fully to spiritual principals we become more like Jesus Christ.  Commit a portion of your life to fasting and you will grow stronger in the faith.  As you draw nearer to God you will receive the many blessings He has reserved for those who love Him.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to commit to the practice of fasting, that we might grow strong in the faith.  May we fast in secret and receive your rewards openly.  Guide us and lead us; speak to our hearts and transform our minds, that we would be Your children, and you would be our Father.  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.


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