Posts Tagged 'grace'

Second Chances

JESUS SPEAKING

            When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  A third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” […] and when he had said this he said, “Follow me.” (John 21: verse 15 – 19.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            On the night that Jesus was arrested, nearly every disciple abandoned him.  As the armed soldiers escorted Jesus to the high priest for questioning, Peter followed at a distance.  When they arrived at their destination, Peter sat down and watched as an angry crowd condemned his master.  They hurled insults at him and spit on him; they also blindfolded Jesus and repeatedly struck him in the face.  As Peter observed the brutality of the mob, his heart began to fail; his confidence gave way to fear.  Three times he was asked if he was a follower of Jesus Christ; and three times he denied his affiliation.  He eventually ran off disgraced and ashamed.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples.   They shared a meal and fellow-shipped.  The Lord took Peter aside and didn’t condemn him for his denials.  Instead, he absolved him of sin and gave him a second chance.  He called Peter to lead and care for those who were giving their lives to God.

            In the late 1800’s there lived an ambitious inventor named Thomas Edison.  He is credited with inventing the battery, the phonograph, the telegraph, the movie projector, and many other well known devices.  One of his greatest inventions was the first industrial light bulb (an item we still use today.)  As the story goes, it took Mr. Edison and an entire team of men, 24 hours to produce the first working prototype.  After the many long hours, Edison gave the bulb to a young boy to carry up the stairs to the testing area.  With the fragile device in hand, the nervous assistant cautiously made his ascent; every step was a carefully planned exercise.  Sadly, despite the child’s best efforts, he shattered the bulb.  The disappointed team began manufacturing another prototype.  Twenty four hours later, the new bulb appeared.  Although the young assistant had failed the first time, Edison wisely understood that the boy deserved a second chance.  The youngster didn’t disappoint; he delivered the bulb to its destination intact. [Note:  The world, unlike Mr. Edison, is not so forgiving.  There are many today who cannot find work, or are stuck in horrible jobs because of crimes they committed 10, 20, even 40 years ago.  They are condemned by, and find little reprieve from the sins of their past.]

             The world is filled with people who have failed in more ways than one; mistakes are a part of life.  Human beings can be unforgiving and cruel, but God is merciful.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to give others a second chance; to forgive and relinquish our resentments.  In so doing, we too will be set free from the guilt of our past mistakes; forgiveness is the pathway to peace; and mercy is the road that leads to true fellowship with the eternal God.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we have made many mistakes; but You have created in us a new heart.  You have given us a second chance.  May we show that same love toward others; may we forgive completely, and may we manifest Your mercy and grace in the lives of all those we meet.  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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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 their 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 prostitutes and tax-collectors, devoid of any delusions of purity, were wholly capable of conducting an honest self-appraisal.  The religious leaders however, believing themselves to be righteous, refused to accept the message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward the restoration of divine fellowship includes a genuine recognition of sin. Still today, those who need the greatest measure of healing, are often rejected by the self-righteous. Although most have forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

                Many living within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were no retirement homes, assisted living facilities, or modern hospitals.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who fell ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; and left to die in the streets. Still, as Christianity spread, so did mercy, compassion, and love. During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who were sick. They became known as “the Parabalani” (“the reckless ones”); because in caring for the infirmed, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they undoubtedly preached the gospel; drawing many to the foot of the cross.

                In similar fashion, we are called 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 recipients of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation. May we never abandon the lost; nor shun the wretched; for Jesus Christ himself loves every outcast.

                “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 be instruments of Your mercy; delivering Your message of salvation to the lost.  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.

Going the second mile!

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to everyone who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Mathew 5: verse 38 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            In the first century A.D. the Roman army occupied the Holy Land.  As conquerors they were afforded certain privileges.  One legal provision gave every Roman soldier the right to compel any Jewish citizen to carry their equipment for up too, but not in excess of, one mile.  Jesus used this commonly understood law to impress upon His followers the importance of serving others in abundance.  When a soldier asked them to carry a load one mile, they were instructed to carry it two miles.  Simply put, accomplishing the bare minimum proves nothing; instead, the true love of God is made manifest when we exceed the demands, requests, and expectations of others.

            Recently, a very influential Pastor named Chuck Smith went to be with the Lord.  He was 86 years old, and had been battling cancer for some time.  When initially diagnosed, he began a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.  These treatments coupled with his age, made him unsteady on his feet.  I was asked to accompany him to and from his daily radio program to prevent him from falling. Once the program had ended, we would get in to his golf cart and head back to the church office.  On the way he would drive around the campus picking up garbage; he would also stop to talk to anyone in need.  One day a woman approached him in tears.  She explained that her marriage was suffering and that she had left messages with another pastor concerning counseling; however he had never returned her calls.  Pastor Chuck lovingly encouraged and comforted the woman; he then told her to speak to his secretary about setting up a counseling appointment with him later that week.  I was amazed that a man in his 80’s with lung cancer, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy was still out-serving many youthful, strong, and seemingly healthy on staff pastors.

            Like Pastor Chuck, Jesus has called all of his children to go the second mile; we must love others in abundance; we must give to one another more than is needed or required; we must serve our fellows with great intensity, sincerity, and passion.  Through our actions, others can and will come to know the mercy and love of God.  If we are obedient and continue to give glory and honor to the Lord, we will come to know the blessings of unending joy and everlasting peace.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we go the second mile.  May we serve and love others in abundance.  Use us to reveal Your love to the world.  Increase our faith and fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might accomplish Your will in this place, and bring honor to Your sacred name.  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.

JESUS SPEAKING                

                “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”  This he said signifying by what death he would die.  The people answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12: 32-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                While addressing his followers, Jesus prophesied concerning the manner in which he would die.  He would be crucified, and the cross would come to symbolize healing, forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  Those who look to it in faith receive everlasting life and the free gift of salvation; those who refuse to accept Christ’s sacrifice continue under condemnation, and will eventually face eternal judgment.                     

                In the Old Testament, God lead the children of Israel out of slavery and bondage in Egypt.  They passed through the Red sea unharmed, and they entered the desert.  While in the desert many Hebrews rebelled against God and the authority of Moses.  Angered by their arrogance, God sent poisonous snakes in to their midst to bite them.  Moses fervently approached the Lord and begged Him to show mercy.  Moved with compassion, God told Moses to sculpt a brass snake and to fasten it to a long pole; he was then told to raise the pole up in the middle of the camp so everyone could see it.  The Israelites were instructed that if they looked upon the snake in faith, they would be healed from their venomous bites (simply put:  look at the snake and you will live; refuse to look and you will die.)  Jesus Christ was also lifted up on the cross for everyone to see; those who look to him in faith receive eternal life; those who refuse, experience judgment and eternal separation from God.  Jesus said in John 3: 14-16, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.”

                The cross has always been a powerful symbol.  It has the power to bring light in to the lives of those who walk in darkness.  It has the power to heal and the power to reconcile sinful man with a pure and Holy God; it has the power to grant eternal life to those who would but look to it in faith.  May you look upon the cross and receive the free gift of salvation.  May you receive the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins.  May you be ‘reborn’ and may God guide you as you travel toward his eternal kingdom.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your wonderful plan of salvation.  As we look to the cross in faith, we receive Your sacrifice and we embrace our new lives with You.  Forgive us our sins through the blood of Christ Jesus.  Grant us eternal life.  Heal our hearts and minds; help us to be ‘children of light;’ that others might see our good works and honor You.  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.

Love for God’s Messangers

 

JESUS SPEAKING

                “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Mathew 10: 40 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTs
                In the first century there were no computers or telephones; nor was there any formal postal service. Therefore, long distance communication was carried out by personal messenger. Generally, when the individual carrying a message had arrived, they were received warmly and treated with great love and respect (most were provided with food, water, and lodging.) To disrespect and neglect a messenger was to disrespect and neglect the one who had sent him.

                Many centuries before Jesus Christ arrived, there lived a very powerful old testament prophet named Elijah. Due to the wickedness of King Ahab, Elijah was forced to pronounce a drought upon the nation of Israel. Eventually, the land became so dry that many began to starve. During this time, God instructed the prophet to travel to a foreign land (where he was to lodge with a widow and her son.) Upon arriving he asked the unfortunate woman for some bread. She replied, saying, “I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son; that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah replied saying, “Do not fear […] but make a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son for thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” The widow woman did as she was told and God continually filled the bin with flour and the jar with oil (because she had shown love toward God’s messenger, she also received his reward: as others died, the widow and her son remained unharmed.)

               Each member of the body of Christ is a prophet; every priest, pastor,  teacher, evangelist, and elder carries an important message from the Lord. Those who love and care for God’s messengers, love and care for God Himself. When we support a missionary we receive their blessings. When we give to the church, we share in their labors, and reap their rewards. When we serve those who serve God, we serve Jesus Christ. Get involved at a church and ask how you can be of service; look for opportunities to love those who carry God’s message, and you will know the true riches of His mercy and grace.

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to love those whom You have sent. Provide us with opportunities to receive Your disciples, Your teachers, and Your prophets. May we draw near to Your messengers, and give to those who faithfully serve You; that we might obtain the blessings You have so graciously bestowed upon them. 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.

God is in complete control

JESUS SPEAKING

                Pilate […] went again in to the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.  Then Pilate said to him, “Are you not speaking to me?  Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?”  Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”  (John 19: 8 – 11.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Bound, bloodied, and beaten, Jesus Christ stood before Pontius Pilate (the Roman Governor of Judea.)  The Jews demanded he be sentenced to death.  Not wanting to kill an innocent man, Pilate proceeded to question him; but Jesus remained silent.  Unaware he was standing before the Son of God, Pilate warned him that his silence could lead to his crucifixion.  Jesus kindly corrected the Governor; reminding him that it was God who would dictate his sentence.  Pilate falsely believed he was in control of the outcome of the trial; in reality, he was merely an instrument in the hands of God; used to bring about His eternal plan of salvation.   

                Still today, many look back upon the events surrounding Christ’s death and blame the Romans or the Jewish people.  They forget that Jesus Christ was not murdered; his crucifixion was the work of God (not the work of man.)  Our Lord was not forced to endure the cross, he chose to endure it.  Nor was it the nails that held him in place that faithful day; it was love.  He died freely to accomplish the will of God.  The cross is not a symbol of anguish, but an emblem of grace and mercy; for upon the cross, the Lord endured the punishment for our sins; that through his selfless act, we might all enter in to fellowship with the Almighty God.  Sacrifice is a necessary expression of ultimate affection; Jesus Christ’s death is a love letter addressed to mankind.  The blood spilled at the foot of the cross is proof that God desperately loves His children.

                Have you come to know the love of God?  Do you know why Jesus Christ died for you?  He died so all those who believe can draw near to their eternal Father.  Accept God’s sacrifice and invite Him in to your heart.  Give Him your life, and let him guide you.  He will adore you; He will love you; and He will protect you.  Surrender to your creator, and you will know true peace.  Open your heart to the Son of God and receive His blessings.  Accept the love of God, and your heart will overflow with unending joy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we accept Your sacrifice, and we thank You for sending Your Son to die for us.  His blood is our blessing; may we surrender our lives to You.  Draw near to us Father, that we might know you intimately.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us new life; and may You dwell in our hearts forever.  We love You Lord, 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.

Want forgiveness, then forgive

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now early in the morning he came again in to the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery.  And when they had set her in the midst, they spoke, saying to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do you say?”  This they said testing him, that they might have something of which to accuse him.  But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, as though he did not hear.  So when they continued asking him, he raised himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8: 2 – 11.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Pharisees had likely heard Jesus teaching about the importance of grace and forgiveness.  In turn, they brought to him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  Under Old Testament (Mosaic) law, she was to be stoned to death.  The religious leaders had hoped he would show mercy and speak out against God’s commandments.  However, instead of condemning her, Jesus placed her fate squarely in to the hands of her accusers (but not before reminding them of their own sins.)  To condemn her would be to invite God’s judgment upon themselves.  Therefore those who wished to continue receiving the Lord’s mercy had no choice but to be merciful.  One by one they threw down their stones until no one was left to condemn her.

                In the book of Ecclesiastes (Chapter 7: verse 21) we are given the reason why many struggle to show mercy.  Verse 21 reads, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.”  According to Solomon, forgetting our past and current sins will lead to anger and an inability to forgive.  The key to showing mercy therefore, is to be aware of our own shortcomings and to remember God’s forgiveness [Note:  There was a time when driving in traffic was rather frustrating for me.  Whenever someone would accidently cut me off, I would become angry and bitter.  One day however, I recall that someone swerved in to my lane and I reacted quite differently.  I remember a feeling of peace and acceptance that I had never felt before.  The peace came from my mind; from a single thought; I recalled that I myself had many times unknowingly strayed into another lane.  I was guilty of accidently cutting off other drivers.  Having remembered my own imperfection, I was able to accept and forgive others for being imperfect.]

                Whenever we feel bitterness, anger, and hatred toward others, it is likely that we have forgotten who we are.  We are sinners saved by grace; we are imperfect human beings; we also make mistakes.  When we remember rightly that we are inadequate and deficient, we will experience true humility.  How can we refuse to forgive others when God has forgiven us of our sins? 

               “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire humility and seek after Your truth.  May we never forget that we are sinners saved by grace.  Remove any bitterness that rests within us, and replace it with love and understanding.  May we continually receive Your mercy, and may we in turn grant that same mercy to others.  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.