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Reaching Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

Then the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he spoke this parable to them, saying:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15: 1-7.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

The religious leaders despised Jesus because he ate with sinners and social outcasts.  The priests and teachers of the law were absolutely obsessed with ritualistic purity.  Most avoided talking too, or even brushing up against those they deemed ungodly. The Jewish people customarily ate food in extremely intimate ways.  They shared cups and dipped bread into communal bowls; eating supper meant sharing saliva; and in turn, they believed that whoever you dined with, you became one with; potentially transferring sins from one person to another.  The Pharisees therefore avoided interacting with sinners. But Jesus saw them as God’s children; He fellow-shipped with them, He ate with them, and He loved them; and as a result, many lost sheep repented and received salvation.

One day a man approached me for help.  He had been a recovering alcoholic for many years, but had fallen back into his old lifestyle.  His clothes were ragged and he smelled rancid; he appeared sick and his hands were shaking badly.  I prayed with the man, bought him some food and gave him a bible; I also helped him to schedule a date to enter a treatment center.  At one point I even had to drive his car.  When I approached the vehicle and opened the door, a plume of awful stench struck my nostrils.  He had been passing out in and urinating all over the front seat.  I didn’t want to endure the horrible smell; nor did I desire to sit in human waste.  But God spoke to my heart; and I instantly understood that getting dirty was, and is, a necessary part of spreading the gospel.  I sat in that unsanitary chair and drove that car; and in turn, God used me to reach a man for Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself wasn’t afraid of getting dirty.  He ate with, lived with, and reached out to sinners.  His most important mission was to save the lost; our mission is the same as His.  We shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty; nor should we push sinners away. Instead we must embrace them and love them; speaking the truth of the gospel no matter the consequence.  They are God’s children; they are His precious possession; they are the treasure.  No matter how filthy or despicable a person might appear, God will never stop seeking after them; He never grows weary and He never gives up. He is full of mercy and grace, and in Him all repentant sinners can find rest for their souls.

“Lord Heavenly Father, may we always seek the lost.  May we never be afraid of getting dirty.  May all come to repentance and reconciliation with You.  Give us the strength and the wisdom to reach out to others.  Fill our hearts with Your Holy Spirit.  May we be given endless opportunities to testify about Your Son; that the world may come to know of Your awesome gift of salvation.  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! 

Humility

JESUS SPEAKING

     “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mathew 5: 3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     In this scripture, the phrase “poor in spirit” is a reference to the attribute of humility (a precious treasure that creates joy in the hearts of all those who possess it.)  Practicing humility requires acknowledging that God is the giver of all good things.  The Lord provides us with our food, shelter, clothing, careers, relationships, and every other necessity of daily living.  He has complete power over all of creation; the very air we breathe is a gift from Him.  Although the humble offer God many praises, the prideful prefer to acknowledge themselves first; mistakenly believing that everything they possess is the product of their own intelligence and hard work.

     An ancient ruler known as Nebuchadnezzar was once the mightiest king who had ever lived.  His reign over the Babylonian empire began in 605 B.C.  Like most powerful men, humility wasn’t one of his greatest attributes; he demanded that his subjects worship him in the manner of a God.  One day as he leisurely strolled through his palace, he spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”  Before he was finished speaking, a voice came from heaven saying, “The kingdom has departed from you […] your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven years shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4: 30 – 32.)  Indeed, because the Babylonian King had failed to give God the credit for his possessions, he slipped into madness and began acting like an ox for seven years; eating grass in the fields.

     As believers, we must avoid making the same mistake.  Instead, we must acknowledge that all good things come from God; that every possession is a blessing and a gift.  Those who desire to enter God’s kingdom would do well to continually honor Him.  Practically, Christian humility can be expressed through prayers of gratitude offered to God daily; we can also say grace before meals and praise the Lord in our private time and during worship services.  Tithing is another acknowledgement of God’s goodness.  Ultimately whatever form of thankfulness we choose to offer, it should come from the heart; and from a deep appreciation for everything that God has so graciously given us.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many gifts and provisions; for our food, our clothes, and our homes (to name a few.)  We recognize that all good things come from You.  Help us to maintain a spirit of gratitude and humility.  Cleanse our hearts of pride, that in lowliness we might better serve You and our fellows.  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!

Judging Others

JESUS SPEAKING 

     “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    Of all the sins we can possibly commit, hypocrisy is one of the most offensive. Jesus embraced repenting murderers, thieves, and prostitutes; yet He openly loathed unrepentant religious hypocrites.  Hypocrisy occurs when someone judges or evaluates another person based upon standards they themselves are incapable of achieving.  Practicing hypocrisy is extremely dangerous because God judges His followers according to the same principles they use to judge others.  If we outwardly condemn thievery, yet secretly steal, we are condemning ourselves.  Jesus warned His disciples that such unrighteous judgments would serve only to separate them from God.  As a result, before we judge anyone, we must make certain that we have been victorious over the sins that have caused others to fall.

     Surprisingly, the first attempted extermination of the Jewish people did not occur within the boundaries of 20th century Nazi Germany.  Adolf Hitler wasn’t the first man to attempt such a hideous undertaking.  In fact, approximately 2400 years earlier a man named Haman made an effort to execute every Jew living within the Persian Empire.  He hated the Hebrews and believed they were troublemakers who deserved to die.  Haman was a high ranking official in the court of Artaxerxes the 2nd, King of Persia.  Somehow he convinced the King to eradicate the Jews; which would have included Haman’s mortal Hebrew enemy, Mordecai (another high ranking official who showed disdain for Haman.)  Mordecai had graciously adopted his orphan cousin Esther, who grew into one of the most beautiful women in all of Persia; the king became enamored with Esther and married her, not knowing that she was a Jew.  As the day of the extermination approached, Haman joyfully erected a scaffold fifty feet high near his home, from which he planned to hang Mordecai.  However, just before the mass murder was about to be carried out, Esther came forward and revealed to the king that she was in fact a Jew.  She begged him to cancel the genocidal plot.  The king compassionately agreed; creating a decree that permitted the Jews to legally defend themselves; thereby ending the sinister conspiracy. The king was also made aware of Haman’s treachery.  In a cruel twist of fate, the king ordered Haman to be hung from the very same gallows he himself had constructed to murder Mordecai.  The judgment he had so eagerly reserved for another person had been visited upon him and his entire household. 

     Like Haman, many today build scaffolds from which to hang others.  Yet such people are often hypocrites who incur the wrath of God; they condemn themselves by the very judgments they use to condemn others.  This is why we must examine ourselves daily and ask God to search our hearts and minds. If we find that the sins of others produces anger and resentment, then we must ask the question, “Am I guilty of any similar sins?”  If the answer is yes, then we need to change. We must abandon hypocrisy and embrace a right relationship with God.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize that we are unworthy servants; and that we are sinners who do not deserve Your forgiveness; yet we thank You that we have received it.  Search our hearts; if You find hypocrisy, please reveal it to us; and correct us if we have been judging others unjustly.  Take away our sinful resentments, that we may more effectively reach those who are lost. Fill our hearts with gratitude, sincerity, and humility.  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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