Archive for the 'devotional' Category

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!

Unity Vs Division

JESUS SPEAKING

   “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Mathew 12: 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    Division produces strife; which in turn, creates weakness.  Although there are many forms of discord, by far the most damaging is ‘internal conflict.’   Hatred between friends is often more devastating than hatred among enemies.  Divisiveness breaks the bonds of marriage; it sets parents against their children; it tears families apart; it defeats armies and conquers entire nations.  The body of Christ is a divine family; made perfect in unity and peace.  Hatred and resentment have no place among God’s children; for hostility creates division; and division leads to destruction.

    Since its inception, the United States has been involved in many military confrontations.  Despite the numerous wars waged in foreign lands, the bloodiest conflict was actually fought on American soil.  The Civil War erupted in the 1860’s; ending nearly 620,000 lives and producing millions of crippled war veterans. The property damage was astronomical; the cost exceeding 6 billion dollars. In fact, the entire city of Atlanta was burned to the ground.  Railroads were destroyed; homes and businesses were looted and vandalized; entire crops were set ablaze. Many families were also torn in two. There are several historical accounts of siblings fighting against one another in battle.

    Much like 1860’s America, the church has at times, experienced great disunity.  The number of issues that have fostered division include: differing methods of baptism; observance of certain holidays; adherence to dietary restrictions; the structure of church authority; the recognition of a pope; priestly marriage; confessional; child baptism, etc. Avoiding such tedious divisions means placing our emphasis upon a common faith in Jesus Christ; choosing instead, to refrain from arguing over ‘uncertain things.’ We, as believers, are faithfully united in our acceptance of his sacrifice, the desire for obedience, and our hope in his future return. As eternal brothers and sisters, we are “all one in Christ Jesus.”

    “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire spiritual unity.  Destroy the things that divide us; that we might love each other. Forgive our transgressions and cleanse our hearts of hatred and resentment. Strengthen Your body; that we may endure the hardships of this life as a family. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and we pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name we pray,  amen.”  God bless all of you!

Love for God’s Messengers

JESUS SPEAKING

    “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me, receives the one who sent me.  He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.  And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Mathew 10: 40-42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

  During the days when Jesus walked the earth, long distance communication was accomplished by way of messenger.  An emissary would often deliver a message from one king to another.  Mistreating the king’s messenger was equivalent to mistreating the king himself.  Therefore, most of them were treated as if they were the king; they were offered gifts, fed fine cuisine, pampered, and celebrated.  Those who loved the messenger also loved the king; those who hated the messenger also despised his master.  Upon completing his task, an emissary would then return home and report his experience to His Lord.  How he had been treated would dictate the health of any future relations. 

    Many years ago I worked as an inside/outside sales representative.  My job entailed establishing new relationships with other retailers, fabricators, and designers.  As I recall, one memorable day I strolled into another person’s establishment and began speaking with the secretary.  The owner overheard our conversation and became brash with me; angrily proclaiming that he wasn’t interested; apparently some years earlier one of his customers had been snatched away by a sales person from our business. Because of his hatred for my company, he despised me as well.

    Those who reject and hate Jesus Christ, hate and reject God himself.  Those who reject a Christian, a preacher, a pastor, or a priest without a reasonable cause, have rejected Christ.  Those who despise the church hate the savior who founded it.  In turn, we must all respect and care for God’s children.  May we always accept, cherish, and honor His divine messengers, for our treatment of other believers is an indication of our love for God Himself.

    “Lord Heavenly Father, may we recognize and reach out to those who come to us in Your name.  May we love Your emissary’s and cherish Your children.  May we open our homes, our hearts, and our lives to those who worship You.  May we treat them as we would treat You; and may we continue to honor and celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ.  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 we pray.  Amen.”  God bless all of you! 

Being Reborn

JESUS SPEAKING

     “You do the deeds of your father.”  Then they said to him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of myself, but He sent me.  Why do you not understand my speech?  Because you are unable to listen to my word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it […] he who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8: 41 – 47.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     While Jesus walked the earth, many of the religious leaders were claiming to be children of God, and yet they in no way resembled Him.  Instead they were lovers of money, who selfishly desired the praises of men.  They also sought to kill Jesus because he truly was the Son of God.  Without exception, every human being has one of two Fathers.  Either they love and serve God in purity and truth, or they follow Satan and serve their own fleshly desires.  Those seeking to become children of God must be reborn.  Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

     The process of being reborn is comprised of two very unique and distinct steps.  First, the individual must forget everything they have learned that is not congruent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Secondly they must embrace and live according to the commandments of God.  Before I was reborn, I willingly served Satan.  My life was full of selfishness, dishonesty, and promiscuity.  I had learned from movies and popular culture that fornication (sexual activity prior to marriage) was permissible and profitable.  However, after my rebirth, I abandoned my worldly education and embraced the biblical commandment to avoid fornication.  After many years of sexual purity, I met my wife.  We courted for nearly a year; during this time we did not cohabitate (live together); we also refrained from sexual contact of any kind.  In accordance with God’s desires, our first intimate moments were shared on the night of our wedding.

     Those who yearn to call God Father, must also be reborn; they must abandon what they have learned from popular culture and embrace the commandments of the Lord.  Every truly obedient soul will eventually come to resemble Jesus Christ.  Their hearts will be filled with compassion, truth, mercy, and love.  In turn, many others will see God in us and be drawn toward Him.

     “Lord God, may we call You our Father today.  May we be reborn and know that the old things have passed away and that You have made all things new.  Guide us, teach us, and transform our hearts, that we might continue to grow in Your likeness and Your image.  When others see us may they see You.  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!

Only One Way to Enter

JESUS SPEAKING

  Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 7-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

  In the first century shepherding was a very common profession.  Every good shepherd would tirelessly love and care for his sheep.  Feeding and watering the livestock remained an unending endeavor.  Every shepherd was also tasked with fending off hungry predators and keeping their sheep free from dangerous parasites.  Over time, the sheep would come to trust in and rely upon the individual guiding and protecting them.  After many days and nights of grazing in the open fields, the shepherd would need to rest.  Upon returning home, he would place his animals in a pen where he knew they would be safe.  Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to gather his sheep together and lead them to safety.  In this parable, the sheep pen is meant to represent heaven; there remains a single gate through which one can enter.  Only those who have faith in and follow Jesus Christ are granted access to God’s kingdom.

  Today, flying is a very common mode of modern transportation.  In recent years, terrorists have utilized airplanes to commit atrocious acts of violence against many innocent people.  In an effort to prevent these attacks from occurring, airport security has become correspondingly severe.  There is now only one way in and one way out.  In turn, those seeking to enter through the security checkpoints must have the proper identification.  No license or alternative form of identification means no entry.  This rule is usually without exception; a nice smile, a kind face, and an appealing excuse are of no benefit whatsoever.  God’s kingdom is similar in many respects.  Simply put, there is one way to enter; and only those who have faith in the messiah are granted access.

 Jesus Christ is the ‘Good Shepherd.’  He came to lead his sheep into everlasting life.  Many have heard his words and received Him.  Still others however, have rejected him entirely.  Despite a number of differences, the faithful and the unfaithful have one thing in common; they will both one day stand at the gate; and only those who have called Jesus master and Lord will be able to enter God’s eternal Kingdom. 

  “Lord Heavenly Father, may we enter Your Kingdom.  We have come to trust in You; please lead us and teach us; and provide for all of our needs.  May we be Your sheep and may You be our Shepherd; may we know Your voice and never be deceived.  Protect us from those who would seek to do us harm and inspire us to reach out to those who are lost.  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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