Archive for March, 2020

Freedom

JESUS SPEAKING

      “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.  They bind heavy burdens, difficult to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do to be seen by men.  They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the finest places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’  But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven.  And do not be called master; for one is your master, the Christ” (Mathew 23: 1-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Jesus spoke of the religious leaders saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”  In the Old Testament, God commanded that anyone who passed by a donkey straining under the weight of a heavy load was required to take some of that burden off of the donkey’s shoulders and carry it themselves.  God gave Ten Commandments and a number of simple rules by which to live; yet no man was able to completely obey them.  Despite man’s obvious failure, the Pharisees added hundreds of additional rules to the already heavy load. For instance, God commanded his people to observe the Sabbath day (a day on which no one was supposed to work.)  However, God did not intricately define what constituted work; so the religious leaders decided to do it for Him; they created 39 different categories of work related laws; every distinct category consisted of a long list of prohibitions.  Many regulations were ridiculous; for example they outlawed writing, the tying and the untying of a knot, and the kindling and extinguishing of a fire.  Because the Pharisees made following God more difficult, many became resentful; those who needed God the most were being pushed even farther away from Him. Jesus on the other hand, came to help carry mankind’s burdens; rather than add to them.

  In 570 A.D., a man named Mohamed was born in the city of Mecca.  He eventually started a religion known as Islam; a religion that replaces the grace of God with man-made rules and regulations. To Mohamed, salvation wasn’t the free gift of God; rather; instead it was a wage that could be earned.  (But no one can achieve righteousness through obedience to the law; only the blood of Christ can make a person truly clean.)  Not only did Mohammed re-institute many of the Old Testament laws, he also added over 3000 additional ordinances to them.  For example, he said, one should ‘only eat with the right hand, with three fingers.’  A man was not allowed to eat an animal if he had killed it with a rock; water had to be snorted every day to keep the nose clean (free of evil spirits/the devil); all Muslims were required to perform ritualistic washings first thing in the morning; no one was permitted to enter a house through the back door; people were instructed to wipe off the bed at least three times before getting into it; followers were to sleep on their right side with their right hand under their right cheek, with their knees slightly bent; a man could only use his left hand while urinating; if a dog drank from a dish, it had to be washed at least seven times; dogs were considered unclean and were therefore not to be owned as household pets; no one was permitted to drink out of a green jar or to eat garlic; women, dogs, and monkeys were not allowed to pass in front of a person praying (or their prayers would be nullified.)  Muslims were also commanded to pray five times a day, and to fast one month out of the year.

    Today many are straining under the burden of Islamic law; whole nations are in bondage and slavery to man-made rules and regulations.  The common man suffers, while the religious leaders reap the rewards of unholy power and prestige.  Empty outward obedience is in no way pleasing to God; instead, He desires inward faith in His only Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to relieve man of the heavy burdens of religious rhetoric.  He simplified the law, saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All of the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Love for God and others is the new law; the law of liberty; the law of simplicity; the law of sincerity.  When we love others, we obey God.  As you go about your day, love your fellows with a genuine heart; serve them unconditionally; comfort those who are hurting; give to those in need; reach out to the lost; be a light in the lives of all those you meet, and Christ will be your companion; he will carry your burdens and relieve your sorrows; and “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

   “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we lift You up; You are an awesome and amazing God; full of truth and love and mercy.  Lord, please deliver those who are struggling under the burdens of religious oppression.  Set them free Father, and provide them with the knowledge of Your grace and mercy; may they come to know and love Your Son.  Lord, if we are carrying any unnecessary burdens, we give them to You now; take them from us; relieve us of our afflictions, that we might know what it means to truly be free.  We love You Father, we thank You, and 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!

Fear not, for the Lord is with you

JESUS SPEAKING

   Now it happened, on a certain day that he got into a boat with his disciples.  And he said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  And they launched out.  But as they sailed he fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him and awoke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  Then he arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.  But he said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?  For he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him!” (Luke 8: 22-25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

   The Sea of Galilee is the lowest (below sea level) freshwater lake in the world.  Because it is right next to the Mediterranean Sea, warm and cool air meet, creating fierce storms that arise almost instantaneously.  Jesus and his disciples were crossing this sea when a violent squall arose and threatened to capsize their vessel.  As the Lord peacefully slept in the back of the boat his disciples began to panic.  Fear had caused them to forget who was riding along with them; neither could they recall that just moments earlier Jesus had said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake,” guaranteeing their arrival.  After being roused from his sleep, the Lord calmed the wind and the waves and asked them, “Where is your faith?”  Fear and faith are natural enemies.  The presence of one often signals the absence of the other (and vice versa.)  People become fearful because they lose faith in the God who dwells within them; a God who will never leave them, nor forsake them.  As David wrote in Psalm 23, many years ago, “I shall fear no evil, for You are with me.”

   Some time ago, I interacted with a man who frequented the coffee shop where I used to study.  He often appeared to be under a great deal of stress; he seemed fearful, upset, unsettled, and distracted.  One day he leaned over to me and said, “Can you give me a scripture, or something from the bible that will help me to remember that ‘God will never give me more than I can handle?’”  I immediately recited for him the story of Jesus calming the storm.  The disciples feared that they were going to capsize and drown, but God kept them from perishing.  I told the man that the size of the waves and the level of desperation were unimportant; rather what truly mattered was who he had in the boat with him.  I said that if Jesus was in his heart, he would always stay afloat.

   Today, our lives are like vessels floating on the sea.  Sometimes the seas are tranquil, and sometimes the seas are stormy; those who invite Jesus to accompany them on their journey will receive the promise; for the Lord has vowed that every true believer will make it to the other side.  No one traveling with the Son of God will ever slip beneath the waves.  He will calm the wind; He will still the seas; He will give you a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”  When you feel fear, remember His promises; and you will finish the race; you will keep the faith; and you will live, because the Lord is with you.

   “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask for Your Son’s guidance; that he might accompany us on our journey through life.  Protect us from the storms that might arise along the way; increase our faith as well. Give us Your love, Your peace, and Your wisdom. And may we never fear anything, knowing that You are with us.  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!

Who can you trust?

JESUS SPEAKING

    “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8: 46-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    No human being can live a completely sinless life.  Jesus however, being the Son of God, never once indulged in iniquity.  He was so confident of his own moral perfection, that he publicly challenged any willing soul to accuse him of sin.  In turn, his numerous enemies watched and waited; hoping he would make some grave error.  Despite their continuous inspections and endless observations, he spoke plainly, and publicly.  And yet no one could find him guilty of sin.  In fact, at his trial, Pontius Pilate actually said of Jesus, “I find no fault in this man.”  Still he was crucified. Those who are wise, understand that trusting a man who is sinless, is far better than trusting one who is not.

    Throughout history there have been many self-proclaimed prophets; men seeking the trust of others, who were themselves, untrustworthy. None of these deceptive individuals ever dared place their own personal lives under examination.  Joseph Smith for example (false prophet and founder of the Mormon faith) claimed to be God’s chosen messenger.  However, he lived a life of sexual debauchery; deceptively marrying other women before telling his first wife Emma.  He also married other men’s wives in secret; and engaged in wife-swapping. He even went so far as to marry both a mother and her daughter (an offense punishable by death, according to God’s law.)  Unlike Jesus who invited others to scrutinize his life, Joseph Smith viciously sought to keep his sins from being revealed.  After being kicked out Missouri, Joseph and his followers migrated to the town of Nauvoo Illinois; where the local newspaper began printing articles about his many wives and sexual indiscretions. In June of 1844, fearing he might be exposed, Joseph ordered his followers to destroy the printing press; they broke into the newspaper office and dragged the machine into the street; smashing it with sludge hammers.  Smith was then arrested for this crime and later died in jail. 

    Unlike Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ had nothing to hide; his life was without sin. He never lied, never exploited anyone, and never abused his position of authority to indulge in selfish pleasures.  Instead he served others, loved others, and delivered the word of God to all those who were willing to listen.  Only Jesus Christ can be trusted; only our messiah is worthy of praise and honor.  Won’t you put your faith and trust in him today?  Obey him and follow him, and he will lead you into eternal life. In turn, you will know true freedom, and you will take hold of the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding.’

   “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You and we thank You for Your Son; recognizing that he is sinless and completely trustworthy.  Help us to submit to his leadership; may he be at the center of our lives.  May we be more like him, and may we fully trust in him.  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!


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