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Loving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And the scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness.  The majority of prostitutes, fornicators, and tax-collectors possessed no illusions of purity; in turn, they were capable of honestly evaluating themselves.  The religious leaders were blinded by pride; mistakenly believing they were righteous, they refused to accept God’s message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward real fellowship with God includes a genuine recognition of sin.  Many today are being crushed beneath the weight of guilt and shame.  Those who need healing the most are often the first to be rejected by the self-righteous.  And yet, although the world has forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

      Those who lived within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were few hospitals, and no retirement homes or assisted living facilities.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who became ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; many were left to die alone in the streets.  Still, as Christianity began to spread, so did attributes like mercy, compassion, altruism and love.  During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who had fallen ill.  They became known as “The Parabalani” (“The Reckless Ones”) because in caring for the sick, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they preached the gospel.  We might reasonably conclude that those who lay dying in the streets received salvation at a far greater rate than those were healthy.

      As Christians, we are called to reach out and to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing to receive God’s message.  May we never shun sinners, nor abandon the lost.  The Holy Spirit will provide every faithful believer with opportunities to preach the gospel, and to deliver healing to those who are afflicted.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we continue to be instruments of Your mercy, that many others might come to know true forgiveness and reconciliation.  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!

The Key to Happiness

JESUS SPEAKING

       And it happened, as he spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breast which nursed you.”  But he said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and ‘keep it’ (do it)” (Luke Chapter 11: verse 27 – 28.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       The word ‘blessed’ can most accurately be translated into our modern word for ‘happy.’  Those who are ‘blessed’ possess a genuine measure of peace, joy, and contentment.  In this scripture, Jesus emphasizes two essential steps, that when followed, lead to legitimate happiness.  First, an individual must become aware of God’s commandments and teachings.  Secondly, they must apply His doctrines in their lives and the lives of those around them.

       Concerning happiness, Americans are more depressed than ever.  From 1999 – 2014, the use of antidepressant medications increased by nearly 64%.  Approximately one in every ten individuals is currently taking some form of antidepressant.  Many however, are not suffering from chemical imbalances (although some might be); rather, they are unhappy because they either do not know God’s word, or they know it but refuse to apply it.  Those who are, at present, practicing serious sins, are consistently less happy than those who are not.  For instance, approximately 1.5% of women who are married report experiencing some form of depression; yet 5.1% of women living with a man before marriage report being depressed.  Further, those who engage in a homosexual lifestyle are more than 200% more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.   Additionally, men who watch pornography daily are 3.5 times more likely to experience severe depression than the general population.  Simply put, those who avoid sin are happier than those who do not.

       God lovingly gave mankind guidelines; and when they are followed, they lead to satisfaction and joy.  When His statutes are ignored, those who are disobedient can expect to experience emotional instability, depression, and fear.  The formula for achieving lasting happiness is uncomplicated; simply read God’s word daily and apply his teachings in every area of your life.  In so doing you will be blessed; you will avoid the misery of sin, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

       “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire genuine obedience.  May we read Your word daily and apply what we have learned in our lives.  May we act out Your commandments; may we love others; may we spread Your message; may we avoid sin, and in so doing, may we receive your eternal rewards.  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! 

Stay Focused on Today

JESUS SPEAKING

     “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mathew 6: 34.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Apprehension, fear, and anxiety are destructive emotions that cause turmoil in the hearts and minds of most human beings. Although the majority of our worries revolve around some real (or imagined) future difficulty, they usually cause us distress in the present. Such uncertainties can steal our joy and distract us from the work that God has currently called us to accomplish. Therefore, Jesus commands every believer to live in the moment and to focus wholly and completely upon the blessings, cares, and concerns of today.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we are given a wonderful illustration that emphasizes the importance of living in the moment. After leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea, the Jewish people wandered about in the wilderness for forty years. Each day God miraculously fed them by causing a delicious bread to condense and accumulate on the desert floor. However, no one was allowed to collect and store excess amounts of bread (except on the day prior to the Sabbath.) Instead, they were only permitted to eat what was necessary to sustain their daily nourishment. Violating this law meant focusing on tomorrow’s needs and concerns [In the new testament, when asked how one ought to pray, Jesus reiterated this doctrine; we are told to ask God to, “give us this day our daily bread.” Not our weekly, monthly, or yearly bread; but rather, “our daily bread.”]
     Fear of tomorrow serves only to distract us from the joys, blessings, and obligations of today. When we focus on the present, we are fully able to accomplish God’s will. As we trust in the Lord, we can begin to cherish every second, of every hour, of every day. To live now is to live for God; knowing that His love is a present gift and not a future possibility.        

“Lord Heavenly Father, help us to live in the moment and to rely upon You for our daily needs. May our concerns and our cares be firmly rooted in the present. If our hearts possess fears and anxieties related to the future, remove them, that we may be joyful, loving, and better able to serve You today. 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.

Staying Focused on Jesus

JESUS SPEAKING

      [As Christ walked with Peter along the beach, he said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This he spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God […] Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on his breast at the supper, and had said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”  Peter, seeing him asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?  You follow me?” (John 21: 18 – 22.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He ate with them; fellowshipped with them; and encouraged them.  He also privately took Peter on a walk along the beach (the apostle John followed at a close distance.)  The Lord told Peter that one day he would be crucified for his faith.  Peter, then inquired about the Apostle John’s fate.  Jesus gently rebuked him (such matters were not his concern.)  Jesus reminded him to remain completely focused upon his Lord and Savior.  Peter had made a very common error; a mistake that is still prevalent within the church today.  Many wrongly focus their attentions on other believers; or on their circumstances; or even on themselves.  However, Jesus Christ demands the complete and undivided attention of every faithful follower.

      How important is it to remain focused on Jesus Christ?  On another occasion the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.  Peter filled with faith, yelled “Lord if it is you […] tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “come.”  Peter got out of the boat, and began to walk on water; but as he approached Christ, he began to focus on the large waves that encircled him.  Because he had taken his eyes off of the Lord, he began to sink; he cried out to Jesus saying “Lord save me.”  Jesus grabbed him, and pulled him from the raging sea.  Peter’s faith waivered because he turned his attentions away from the messiah.  We can all learn from Peter’s mistake; those who are wise will continually remain focused upon Jesus Christ.

      This world is full of diversions.  We, like Peter, are all guilty of looking to the left and to the right; we have all misplaced our attentions; we have all succumbed to the numerous distractions in life.  Though we have failed in many ways, with God’s help, we can all once again refocus upon our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  May our trust, faith, and hope in him never waiver; for in him we find our strength, our salvation, and our greatest victory.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we look to Your Son, and we place our faith fully in Him.  Remove any distractions or diversions that exist in our lives and in our hearts.  May our attentions always be focused upon You.  Continue to sanctify us, that we might be fruitful.  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.

Anger is Murder

JESUS SPEAKING

     “You have heard it said long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Mathew 5: 21-22.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Few evil offenses can rival the act of murder; and murder, like so many sins, is the outward expression of an inward disposition.  All actions begin deep within the spirit.  First century Judaism stressed external adherence to the laws of God.  Jesus however, emphasized internal obedience; he focused on the heart; and rightly so; for murder is hatred that has reached full maturity; similarly, laziness gives birth to poverty; and adultery is the offspring of lust.  Unless the heart is continually cleansed, evil will take root and generate a plethora of unholy actions.  God judges the inner man; therefore, we as believers must diligently guard our hearts; allowing the Lord to cleanse them; and in so doing, we will also outwardly adhere to God’s commandments.

     John Wilkes booth is one of the most famous assassins in U.S. history.  On April 14th, 1865, he crept up behind Abraham Lincoln, and shot him in the head (a wound that proved fatal.)  Booth was a loyal southerner, angered over what he believed to be the evils of Northern aggression. He too was later killed.  Abraham Lincoln’s death, although horrific, wasn’t the result of an assassin’s bullet; instead, it was the offspring of anger that had fully matured; hatred led to the deaths of both John Wilkes Booth and the 16th president of the United States of America.  [Additional illustration:  It’s interesting to note that unchecked anger can not only lead to spiritual death, but it can also lead to physical death.  A recent study conducted by John Hopkins university tracked 1,337 male medical students for 36 years following medical school; the study found that those who were quick to anger when undergoing stress, were three times more likely to “develop premature heart disease, and five times more likely to have an early heart attack.  Angry young men, it appears, turn into angry old men with heart problems” (Cleveland Clinic, Anger and Heart Attack.)]

     As sure as the day is long, anger will eventually grow into hatred; and hatred generates sin; therefore, the Lord teaches us that anger and murder are indistinguishable.  The seeds that enter the ground and the fruit they produce are one in the same.  Search your heart; and if you discover any anger, discard it; it serves only to separate you from your Creator.  Permit the Lord to cleanse you of every lingering resentment and He’ll draw near to you; as a result, you’ll come to experience the peace and freedom of unconditional forgiveness.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You let the truth of this scripture sink deep down into our hearts and minds.  May our souls be pure and free from evil thoughts and desires.  Take away our anger and resentment; that we may we not judge others but love them instead; knowing that You are the only righteous judge.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and transform us from the inside out.  We love You Lord, 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!

Being Set Free

JESUS SPEAKING

      Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed him, “If you abide in my word, 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.  How can you say you will be made free?”  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore, if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8: 31 – 36)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Although slavery was common in the ancient world, the men Jesus spoke with were not slaves.  Rather, being free men, they had failed to understand that they were slaves to their own sinful appetites.  Sin is often a far crueler taskmaster than a man holding a whip.  Even today, many weary souls are hopelessly ruled over by their addictions; some are in bondage to drugs and alcohol; some to pornography and sexual deviancy; while others are practicing deceit, lewdness, fornication, and idolatry; etc.  And yet, no matter how vast the number of sins might be, Jesus Christ has been setting people free for nearly 2000 years.

      One day I decided to visit Venice Beach; as I walked amidst the shops and street performers, I happened across 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 heavy Jamaican accent.  They were practicing the Rastafarian religion; a religion that promotes the spiritual use of marijuana.  Their bondage to the drug was so ferocious that they had adopted an entirely foreign lifestyle, simply to continue smoking marijuana without conviction.  Although they believed themselves to be free, they were in fact slaves; slaves whose master had caused them to lose nearly everything.  Thankfully, I was able to share with them about how God had transformed my life; how He had relieved me of my addictions.  I would like to tell you that they immediately received the message and were reborn, but I cannot.  I can only pray that they might someday accept Jesus Christ and been set free.

      If you are in bondage to some sin, turn your life over to Jesus Christ and He will relieve your burdens.  He will set you free from your addictions; He will heal your mind and cleanse your soul.  Invite Him into your heart, and He will become your master; He will protect you; He will guide you; He will mold you and shape you into His own image.  You will know true freedom.  As the love of God fills your heart, you will also experience genuine gratitude and eternal 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; and give us hope.  May our addictions be relieved, and may our fleshly desires be destroyed.  May we serve You in sincerity of heart; may we never stray from Your paths of righteousness; and may we dwell in Your presence forever.  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!

Leaven

JESUS SPEAKING

       “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13: 20-21.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      What is leaven?  Leaven is a microscopic organism, sometimes known as yeast.   The yeast produces small bubbles of carbon dioxide, which are kneaded through a measure of dough.  When the bread is cooked the micro-organisms are killed, causing the gas bubbles to expand and give the bread its size and soft feel (unleavened bread remains hard and flat.)  Cooking bread without using a leavening agent wasn’t uncommon in the first century, especially among the Jews who were forbidden to eat leavened bread during the Passover week.  So according to Jesus, what do leaven, and the Kingdom of God have in common?  The kingdom of God is something that is hidden away inside of a person’s heart, just as leaven is hidden away and cannot be seen in an unheated loaf of bread.  A tiny bit of leaven will eventually move through an entire loaf until its completely saturated.  Similarly, the kingdom of God often has a small beginning in the heart of every believer; just a little bit of God’s kingdom is enough to eventually saturate the entire heart and life of the person who receives it.

       Today, millions of people around the world use I-phones; many also own Apple Computers.  Given its size, it wouldn’t be difficult to envision that this company was born in some huge office building somewhere, backed by a handful of the most powerful investors on the planet.  We might even think there was a national advertising campaign and literary buzz surrounding the start of Apple Computers.  Although this would be easy to imagine, it would also be incorrect.  Apple Computers was started by two teenagers in a garage (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.)  Steve’s dad had to clear out the garage, so the boys had enough room to begin manufacturing their first personal computers.  Something that two adolescents began in a home, today spans the entire globe and affects the lives of millions of people.

       Often our understanding of faith is skewed.  We believe that strong faith in the Lord is something that a person just has, and there is no way acquire it.  This is an unfortunate belief.  Faith is not necessarily something that explodes immediately in a person’s life (it can, but not always.)  Faith in Christ can have meager beginnings from which it may grow to affect every area of the believer’s life.  Someone may start by professing a faith in Christ during a bible study, and before they know it, they’ve begun to pray, to serve, and to spread the message.  Eventually a person’s love life, business life, personal life, recreational life, and every other area of their life may be taken over by the Spirit of God.  The Lord wants every area of our lives. This truth can be a scary prospect for a lot of people, and this is why many often harden their hearts and refuse to receive the gospel.  Those who do allow the kingdom of God into their hearts are transformed from the inside out.  Allow God to change you; allow Him to fill every area of your life, and you will know peace, and you will know God.  The areas we hold back from God, are the areas which cause us the most pain; so, let Him invade the areas you struggle with, and you will suffer no longer.

       “Lord Heavenly Father, You are an awesome and amazing God.  We come before You today and we pray that You would continue to grow within us; fill up our hearts and lives completely Lord.  We ask You now to grow, and to enter into the areas that we are holding back from You.  Lord give us more of Your Spirit, more of Your Truth, and increase our faith.  Consume our hearts, our minds, and our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  We love You Lord, 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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