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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 with them; neither could they recall that just moments earlier Jesus had said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  After being roused from 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 had many interactions with a man who frequented the coffee shop where I studied.  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 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 recalled 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 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 that Your Son would guide us; that he accompany us on our journey through life.  Protect us from the storms that might arise along the way; increase our faith; may we never fear knowing that You are with us.  Give us Your love, Your peace, and Your wisdom.  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.

What God Values

JESUS SPEAKING

          Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God” (Luke 16: 14-15.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          What the world considers valuable and what God considers valuable are often in direct opposition.  Many esteem beauty, wealth, fame, power, and intellect above Godliness, compassion, love, humility, and genuine mercy.  The Pharisees (religious leaders) hearts were wicked; they demonstrated extreme partiality toward the powerful, wealthy, affluent, and well-educated.  Jesus however, fellow-shipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors; he reached out to the lame, and befriended many outcasts.  He refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality; rather, he continually honored and esteemed only those things God deemed worthy.

          In the Old Testament, we read of a time when it became necessary to anoint a new king to rule over the nation of Israel.  The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to travel to Bethlehem, where he was instructed to choose a king from among the Sons of Jesse.  Upon arriving, Samuel laid eyes upon Eliab (one of the eldest sons); Eliab was mature, healthy, and strong.  The prophet, being mislead by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!”  God replied to Samuel, saying, “Do not look at his appearance or his physical stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  After God had rejected seven of Jesse’s eldest sons, it appeared there were none left.  Samuel asked if all his Sons were present; Jesse replied, “Well there remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”  When David, the youngest and weakest of Jesse’s son’s appeared, God said, “Arise and anoint him, for this is the one.”  [In time it became clear why God chose David; he was wise and loved God with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.]

          In all cultures it is common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to highly esteem such attributes at the expense of simple virtues is to oppose God.  The apostle James wrote, “For if there should come into your assembly a man with Gold rings [and also] a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or “Sit at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”  Therefore, every true believer must make an effort to avoid valuing worldly things.  With God’s help, we can be impartial; we can see through His eyes; we can become lovers of truth; men and women who adore kindness, cherish compassion, and embrace mercy.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, guide us, and lead us in to the paths of righteousness.  Give us clean hearts, that we might avoid partiality, and love what is truly good.  May we turn away from worldly pursuits, and walk in Your ways; may we love what You love; may we value what You value; and may we live as You have lived.  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.

Leading Others to Christ

JESUS SPEAKING

          While journeying through Samaria, Jesus became tired and sat down next to a well; as he rested, he began speaking with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water; during their conversation he revealed to her the intimate details of her life; details that only God Himself could know.  Amazed and astonished, ‘the woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet […] I know that the messiah is coming (who is called the Christ.)  When he comes he will tell us all things.”  Jesus answered her saying, “I who speak to you am he.” […] The woman then left her water-pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.  Could this be the Christ?” […] And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in him because of the word of the woman who testified saying, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.”  So when the Samaritans had come to him, they urged him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his own words” (John 4: 19 – 41.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          One fateful afternoon, Jesus Christ chose to reveal himself to an immoral woman who was attempting to draw water from a well.  She was completely unaware that on that particular day she would find the Son of God and receive salvation and eternal life.  Upon hearing him recount every intimate detail of her life, she becomes overwhelmed with joy.  The astonished woman leaves her water-pot behind and enters the city; seeking to lead others to Jesus.  As expected, those who followed her eventually received the free gift of God.  Everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ becomes his messenger.  Having been redeemed, we must then strive to lead other sick individuals to the ‘Great Physician;’ the only one capable of mending their wounds and healing their broken hearts.

          Like our ‘Great Physician’, there was once a missionary Doctor who was practicing medicine in a Chinese hospital.  As he sought to alleviate the suffering of his fellows, he surgically healed a man afflicted with cataracts (a clouding of the lenses of the eye that causes blindness.)  A few weeks later, 48 blind men arrived from the wilds of china (each one seeking to undergo the same incredible procedure.)  Incapable of proper navigation, they were clinging to a rather long rope.  Not surprisingly, the man who had been cured was guiding them.  These desperate men had journeyed nearly 250 miles prior to safely reaching the hospital.

          There are so many people in this world who have been blinded by sin and death.  These individuals need someone to guide them toward the ‘Great Physician.’  Like the Samaritan woman, those who have been enlightened are given the task of leading others to Jesus Christ.  As ‘reborn’ Christians we are instruments in the hands of an almighty God.  If we are willing, He will use us to reach out to our family members, co-workers, and friends.  Our singular task is to testify concerning the wonderful works that He has accomplished in the lives of all those who believe in Him.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  May we be amazed every day by Your miracles and righteous deeds.  Help us to embrace our obligation to lead others to Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to witness to our family members, co-workers, and friends; that they would hear our words and greatly desire the free gift of eternal life.  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.

Set Free

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed him, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been in bondage to anyone.  So how can you say you will be made free?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave doesn’t abide in the house forever.  If therefore the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31 – 36)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Although slavery was commonly practiced in the ancient world, the men Jesus was speaking with weren’t slaves.  As free men, they didn’t understand that they were actually slaves to their own sinful appetites.  Sin is often a far crueler taskmaster than any man wielding a whip.  So many people are ruled over by their individual addictions; some are addicted to drugs and alcohol; some to pornography and sexual promiscuity; others are in bondage to cigarettes, gambling, food, video games, and money, etc.  Still, no matter how vast the number of sins might be, Jesus Christ has been setting people free from them for nearly 2000 years.

          One day I visited Venice Beach. As I journeyed passed the shops and street performers, I encountered a young couple.  They were homeless; their hair was tangled and matted; their clothes were riddled with holes; and despite being raised in the United States, they spoke with a fake Jamaican accent.  They were practicing the Rastafarian religion; a religion that promotes the spiritual use of marijuana.  Their bondage to the drug was so powerful that they had willingly abandoned who they actually were; preferring instead to adopt an entire identity that would enable them to continue smoking cannabis without conviction.  Although they believed themselves to be free, they were in fact slaves; slaves whose master had taken nearly everything away from them.  I shared my testimony with the couple; informing them of how God had relieved me of my addictions and transformed my life.  I would like nothing more than to tell you that they received the message and were reborn; but I can’t.  I can only pray that they eventually committed themselves to the Lord and were set free.

          If you’re in bondage to some sin, turn to Jesus Christ and he’ll relieve you of your burdens.  He will set you free from your addictions and heal your mind, body, and spirit. Invite him into your heart and he will guide you, protect you, and transform you.  Only through the blood of Jesus can you experience true freedom and everlasting peace. [Note:  If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and would like to be set free, contact me and we can discuss how you might make that decision today.]

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be set free from the bondage of sin and death.  Heal our hearts and minds; give us hope.  Relieve our addictions and destroy our fleshly desires.  May we serve You in sincerity of heart and never stray from the righteous path.  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.

Be Filled with God’s Light

JESUS SPEAKING

          “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The light of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  If then, your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole thing will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light” (Luke 11:  33-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Most ancient lamps were round, hollow clay containers filled with oil.  One end of the wick was plunged into the oil; the protruding end was then lit.  Although the visible wick seemed to be the source of the light, it was not; the true source was the oil hidden within the lamp.  Every human being is a lamp; a vessel; a hollow container that is meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Much like the flaming wick, the light from within man, pours out of the eyes (for all the world to see.)  Those who observe the radiance of Christ are drawn toward it; God’s greatest desire is for others to receive His Spirit, that they might be transformed and become vessels of His light to all those who dwell in darkness.

          As a new Christian I remember that some believers eyes were unique; looking into them was like looking into crystal clear water; there were no waves; there was no turmoil; just a supernatural purity and peace (Their eyes weren’t shifty; they blinked less, and they always maintained eye contact when talking.)  However, some people’s eyes were filled with darkness.  I knew one man who was engaging in perversion and grievous sin; his unusual eyes were dull, and covered in a yellowish film; even the hair and the skin on his face appeared drab (his condition was not biological, but spiritual.)  As he began to grow closer to God, that yellowish film began to fade away; his eyes began to clear; and his face began to warm.  Similarly, when a person has a seizure, or suffers a concussion, their eyes go blank and they become unresponsive; the lights go out; it is as if the person is no longer there.  The eyes of those who walk in darkness are empty.  They may live, work, have children, and even pay taxes, but they are not truly alive; they are hollow on the inside; they are dead; and only Christ can breathe life into them.

          Today, many are overflowing with the Spirit of God and many are not.  How can non-believers be filled and believers grow closer to the Lord?  They can ask God daily for His Holy Spirit.  They can take the time to pray and to speak with God.  Reading the bible is another act that produces faithfulness.  Also, practicing the teachings of Christ will increase spiritual growth.  Every act of selflessness, charity, outreach, and love increases our intimacy with God.  As God continues to fill us, others will see something different in our eyes.  They will see a peace, clarity, purity, and a genuine hope that only the children of God possess.  May God fill you with His Holy Spirit, and may you be a light to others in a dark world.

“Lord Heavenly Father, we lift You up; You are an awesome and mighty God; full of grace, peace, and mercy.  Push the darkness out of our hearts, and fill us to overflowing with Your light.  Help us to have eyes that are beacons of hope to others; eyes through which You can draw the lost to Yourself and to Your Son.  May our eyes reveal all of Your glory, and all of Your goodness.  We love You Lord, 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.”

The Keys to Death

JESUS SPEAKING

          Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if burning in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.  And he had in His right hand seven stars:  out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Fear not; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1: 12-20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          The Apostle John was the author of the book of Revelation.  When the Lord visited him, he was an old man, living in exile on the Aegean Island of Patmos.  John was the last living Apostle; imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ (it is generally accepted that John recorded this revelation around 95 A.D.; some sixty years after the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)  John heard the voice of the Lord and turned and saw Jesus in his Heavenly throne room (in his glorified state.)  His eyes were aflame; his hair was a brilliant white; his feet were like shining brass.  He was bathed in radiance like the shining of the sun.  John was filled with fear and fell face down at Jesus’ feet.  The Lord commanded John to record all that he was about to see and hear.  Jesus verbally expressed four distinct characteristics of his Godly nature; He is eternal and the creator of all things; He cannot die; He can grant eternal life to whomever he desires; and he stands outside of time (to God, the past, present and future are one in the same.)  Jesus also revealed the mysteries of the seven stars and seven Golden lampstands.  The seven golden lampstands were representative of the seven churches of John’s day.  There were large churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  The seven stars Jesus held were the seven angels, or spirits that inhabited the churches (Jesus later addressed each individual church, and discussed matters of sin and obedience.)  These churches also stand outside of time (they still exist today.)  Over the course of nearly 2000 years, all seven churches have grown to encircle the Earth.  Every true believer is a member of one of God’s churches.  Anyone who does not believe in the God of the bible has no church; they are lost and headed for death and destruction.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is seated in heaven as the ‘head of the church.’  The church is ‘the house of God’ and no one in God’s house will ever die.

          Jesus said, “I have the keys of hades and death.”  Only the one true and living God can grant eternal life.  ‘There is an ancient story of a woman who had lost a son; distraught, she sought a way to bring him back to life.  She heard that Buddha had a potion that could bring people back from the dead.  She sought him, and he agreed that he did have such a potion.  Anxious, she asked to help collect herbs to aide him in making the tonic.  Buddha sent her out with one simple requirement; he told her that the herbs had to come from a house that had never been touched by death.  She set out to collect the herbs, but every door she knocked on had (in one way or another) experienced death; (a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a grandparent, a son or daughter.)  The woman came to realize that death afflicts everyone.  She lost hope in the resurrection of her son, and allowed him to be buried.  The woman returned to Buddha to thank him for helping her to come to terms with the death of her child.’  Buddha had no magic potion; he was unable to bring the dead to life.  He was only successful in replacing the woman’s hope with acceptance.  Unlike Buddha, Jesus Christ has replaced the acceptance of death with the hope of resurrection.  Believers understand that there will be a day when they will mourn no more.  Lost loved ones will live again.  For those who love Jesus, death holds no power; all those who have died, will rise to live forever.

          Will you live again?  Are you aware that Jesus is seated on his throne in heaven?  Do you understand that for those who believe, there is no death?  Those who confess that Jesus Christ is their master, and live to please him, are eternal; there is no death, only life.  Don’t lose faith; don’t lose hope; keep your heart and mind focused on that day; the day you and I will see Jesus Christ face to face (just as John saw him); and we will know complete peace; unending peace; eternal peace; in the presence of a loving God.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we recognize Your power and glory.  Jesus, we look forward to the day we will see You face to face.  You are the only God, the one true and living God, and we put our faith and trust completely in You.  We trust that we will live forever with You, in Your eternal Kingdom.  Give us the courage and strength to reach out to others who may not know You, that they might come to accept You and receive unending life for themselves.  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.