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JESUS SPEAKING

            And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Please, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, but because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11: 5-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

           In Middle Eastern culture, welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs.  Guests were given food, shelter, and protection.  Failure to do so was considered a great disgrace.  In this parable, a tired and wearied traveler arrived at his friend’s home late in the evening.  The host, lacking the proper sustenance, approached his neighbor, hoping to acquire some food.  The sleeping man, irritated by the untimely appeal, denied his initial request.  However, the neighbor’s persistence eventually paid off.  In this parable, the request for food is a reference to prayer.  The unrelenting neighbor symbolizes those who pray without ceasing; and the man who supplied the food represents God, who enjoys and rewards those who tirelessly continue in prayer. 

            At the age of 23 an inquisitive youth from Gloucester, spied an advertisement in a Boston newspaper that read, “Wanted:  young man as an understudy to a financial statistician.  P.O. Box 1720.”  He responded to the ad by way of letter; but he received no reply.  He wrote a second letter, and then a third; still no reply.  So he made his way down to the post office and requested the name of the owner of Box 1720; but the clerk refused.  He then met with the Postmaster, but he too refused (claiming it was illegal to provide him with that information.)  The young man remained determined; he arose early in the morning, hopped on the first train to Boston, and entered the post office.  He stood patiently with his eyes fixed on box 1720.  After quite some time, a man appeared; he opened the box, grabbed the mail and left.  The young man followed him to his brokerage firm; he entered and asked to speak to the manager.  He told the manager that he had written three letters, before going to the post office where he was refused any further information.  The manager asked, “But how did you find out that I was the advertiser?”  The youth replied, “I stood in the lobby of the post office for several hours, watching Box 1720.  When the man came in and took the mail from the box, I followed him here.”  The manager said, “Young man, you are just the kind of persistent fellow I want.  You’re hired.”

            Similarly, God rewards those who are persistent in prayer.  All too often, our prayers are erratic and inconsistent.  Although we make our requests known to God, we frequently get discouraged when He doesn’t answer them immediately.  In turn, many simply stop asking.  If we have need of something, we must relentlessly make our requests known to God.  We may not receive the blessing on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if we are persistent, it will come.  We must never stop asking, never stop seeking, and never stop knocking.  God is listening; and He is willing and able to give us the desires of our heart.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers.  We stand at the door and knock; we will not relent until You bless us.  May we remain persistent in our prayers; may we be graced with patience and the strength to endure.  Transform our hearts and minds; provide for our needs; and fill us with the fullness of Your mercy and love.  We adore 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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Faith is Meant to Grow

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)  ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had no intentions of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth (contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him.)  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and distant return.  Parables (short stories) forced the listeners to think; through contemplation, they could find the deeper spiritual truth.  Every story had characters, and every character represented a real life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went in to a far country to become king symbolized Jesus, who ascended into heaven (and now reigns with divine authority.)  He too, like the nobleman, promised to return.  The rebellious citizens, who hated the nobleman, exemplified all those who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples (followers.)  In the parable, he gave them each a different amount of money.  The money, likely represents the measure of faith Christ has given every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In our illustration there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and made great efforts to spread the gospel.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  The unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of all his possessions and numbered with the rebels.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; but Jesus sternly expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

                The surface of the earth is clothed in garment of green.  There are thousands of different kinds of trees and everyone is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it; that tree is the mighty redwood;  these behemoth’s can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  The tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt (approximately 1,500 years before Jesus was born) this little redwood was just beginning to sprout.  These trees are so large, it can be difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  Redwood seeds are just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow to be large, some remain small, but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men by the hands of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

                Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our king returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given him.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of your great king and mighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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.

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.