Archive Page 2

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!

Daily Bible Reading

JESUS SPEAKING

      ‘Now Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, and when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Mathew 4: 1-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      After being baptized, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, where Satan tried to tempt and control him through manipulation.  He called into question Jesus’ deity, and appealed to his bodily desires for food.  The Lord replied by quoting a single scripture, saying “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  There are bodily needs and there are spiritual needs; the stomach requires food, but the heart (spirit) requires the word of God.

      Some years ago, I had been ministering to a woman who was almost spiritually dead.  She couldn’t stop doing drugs but continued to profess her faith in God.  When asked if she was reading the bible every day, she replied, “No.”  Oddly enough, when told that daily bible reading would bring about a transformation in her life, she didn’t seem to believe what I was saying.  When asked what had occurred when she did practice daily bible reading in the past, she roughly replied, “I would read it for a while, and then my life would get better, and then I’d stop reading it, and I’d go out and revert back to my old ways.”  She, like many others had failed to understand the truth of what is revealed in this scripture; that the spirit needs to be fed with the bible every day; not two days a week, or one week out of a month, but daily.  The spirit controls the body, and when the sprit is starved, it becomes weak; permitting the fleshly desires take control.  Human beings are then guided by their immediate appetites for food, for sex, for drugs and alcohol, etc.  Regaining control simply requires an adequate dose of daily bible reading.

      Today, we all need to be feeding ourselves with the word of God.  How much time does it take to read a proverb, or to go through a portion of scripture?  Every day we spend a half an hour or more eating food; does opening the bible for ten minutes and consuming the word of God seem too difficult?  Give God’s word a chance in your life.  Make it a part of who you are, and you will find a strength to overcome and endure anything that may come your way.

      “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today and we ask and pray that You would give us a hunger for Your word.   Give us a desire to feed our spirits with Your divine power.  Provide for us new insights as we read, that we might be excited by every new truth we uncover.  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.

Priorities

JESUS SPEAKING

      Jesus had just finished speaking to a rich man who had come to ask him a question; “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  The rich man claimed he had been faithful in keeping each of the ten commandments; still, Jesus told him he lacked one thing; he needed to sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor; only then could he come and follow The Lord.  This proposition was too much for the rich man to concede; causing him to leave under a cloud of sadness.  The scripture below is what followed.  Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed you.”  So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom  of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18: 29.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Peter draws attention to the fact that he and his fellow believers had left everything to follow Jesus.  Jesus responded by promising to replace what they had sacrificed, but in even greater abundance.  And yet there was one stipulation placed upon the rewards; just giving things up wasn’t enough; the sacrifices had to be made for the sake of the kingdom of God.  Jesus also identifies two kinds of rewards; those provided for them in the present time; during their lives upon the earth; and the rewards coming to them after their deaths (eternal life with God.)

      Jesus presents us with a list of things that people commonly put before God.  Some who were called, refused to sell their homes and go out into the ministry field with Jesus; their homes were the most important thing in their lives; for some it was their parents; for some, their brothers; for some, their wives, and for still others, it was their children.  Life is full of priorities; and everyone has something in the top spot; and whatever is in that top spot set’s the limitations on every other valuable thing.  Without fail, everyone serves the number one priority in their lives.  [I once asked a man who claimed to be a believe in Jesus, how much time he spent brushing his teeth in the morning and the evening.  Apparently, his daily tooth care comprised about 4-5 minutes.  Then I asked him how much time he spent reading the bible; his response was “0.”  I said, “Then it’s safe to say, that in your life, your teeth are more important than God?”  Without coercion, he recognized the truthfulness of my statement.  A person who spends a lifetime putting God off will, in the end, be put off by God.

      Today, in our daily lives, God must come first.  He has too become the number one priority, and everything must come in second.  Yes, sacrifices are necessary to make this happen.  Selling all our possessions is not necessarily what he is asking us to do; but he is asking us to put Him ahead of those possessions.  If a man puts wealth into the place where God should be, he has too sacrifice his love for money; choosing instead, to replace it with a love for God.  And yet, not everyone has placed wealth above God.  Many have placed family, loved ones, children, time, possessions, freedom, recreation, sleep, drugs or alcohol, a job, a car, a house, land, education, etc.  We can place God first if we are willing to release our grip on whatever it is we’re serving; only then can we truly serve Him.

  “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to sacrifice those things that are preventing us from serving you.  Give us the strength to place You first; and may we not be afraid to make changes in our lives.  Please be the number one priority in our hearts; be the thing we love the most.  We love You Father, and we look forward to Your coming Kingdom.  We praise You, we thank You, and we love You, and we ask all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you!

An Eternal Foundation

JESUS SPEAKING

   “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of  mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall” (Mathew 7: 24-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

   In this scripture, Jesus initially identifies one group of people: all those who hear his words.  He further divides this group into two distinct categories.  The division is based solely on the response to what the listeners have heard.  One group puts into practice what they have learned from Jesus, and the other group does not.  Those who take action are wise, but those who do not are foolish.  Both groups are likened to builders, who undertake the construction of a house.  One builds on solid rock (unmovable, sturdy, and permanent), and another group builds on sand (movable, shifting, and impermanent.)  Every human being is a building, and their actions and behaviors are the product of following a blueprint.  Some blueprints are terrible, some are wonderful, but only one blueprint is eternal.  The wind and the rains, and the floods that Jesus is talking about are the forces in life that attempt to break us down; to cause us to fail and give up hope.  Everyone suffers setbacks; everyone suffers trials, and those who don’t practice the teachings of the Lord crumble when those trials arise.

   Along the coast of Southern California, many individuals have constructed lavish mansions on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  Every so often a mudslide or a sink hole will bring down a huge portion of the cliff upon which one of these houses stands.  If you watch the news, you will occasionally see a picture of a half of a house standing on a cliff; while the opposite half lays on the beach below; buried by the cliff that gave way.  Once in a while, a house built on a solid enough foundation will hang over the cliff, fully intact, with nothing but air flowing beneath it.  The same thing is true for those in this world who build their lives upon the teachings and sayings of Jesus Christ.  This world will eventually perish; it will undergo complete destruction; and yet whatever we have built in this life according to God’s design will not perish; but will instead, last forever.

   Today, much like our Lord, each one of us is a carpenter.  We are builders who have a blueprint to follow.  A life that takes shape because we follow the directions outlined for us by our eternal God, will never end.  The other life, the one that follows instructions given to us by anyone other than Jesus Christ, will be destroyed.  Eternal life is not obtained solely by what we have heard, but by what we have done as a result of what we have heard.  Obedience to God is how we build our lives upon an eternal foundation.  If we read His word and do His word, we will not pass away with this present world; but rather, we will spend an eternity with Him in paradise.        

“Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You give us the strength to do what we have heard from Your Son.  Give us more opportunities to implement your directions for living; may we know deep pleasure and great satisfaction in completing the tasks that You have given us to do.  May we always strive to please you, and to be a blessing to all of those around 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!


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