Posts Tagged 'Jesus Christ'

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!

Professing Christ

JESUS SPEAKING

    “Therefore, whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in Heaven.  But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Mathew 10: 32-33.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    This pronouncement is clearly self-explanatory.  Public profession of Jesus Christ is an absolute necessity.  If we deny him before men, he will deny us before our Father in Heaven.  Most people today are not interested in making Christ a part of their public lives, let alone their private lives.  It seems that modern social norms have made it politically correct to leave Jesus Christ out of whole sectors of our society; like work, school, sports, and even recreation.  Some consider it inappropriate and even rude to bring him into places like coffee shops, grocery stores, banks, movie theatres, diners; etc.

    As we venture through our day, it isn’t hard to see that almost everyone is carrying some outward message along with them; perhaps it’s what they wear; maybe a shirt with a rock band’s name on it, or business name, or brand name.  Whatever it is, they are professing something about themselves, and about who they are and what they stand for.  If you listen to people talking in a crowded room, you’ll hear all kinds of conversations.  You might hear a person talking about something they love and enjoy; like working out, or shopping, or school, or some political candidate.  As Christians, we must realize that our actions, our behaviors, and even our clothing can be a means of expressing our faith in Christ.

    As Christians, we shouldn’t be shy about what we enjoy, what drives us, and who we love.  Others may not like what they hear, but if they are offended, they aren’t offended with us, but with God.  Don’t be shy, don’t be scared, and don’t be timid.  Profess him when he leads you, and make sure it is done in love.  You never know when God wants to use you to speak about the gospel message.

   “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You help us to be bold in sharing the gospel in accordance with Your will.  Give us a desire to make You a part of every area of our lives.  We also ask that You remove any fears that we might have, and give us courage, and strength, and faith; and especially, give us love for those who are lost and don’t know Your Son.  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.

Shining Brightly

JESUS SPEAKING

                “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it provides light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mathew 5: 14 – 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                It is impossible for a Christian to remain unrecognized. To stay hidden is to fail to fulfill God’s purpose. Every genuine believer is called to be different; to stand out; to be set apart; loving where there is no love; serving in the midst of selfishness; faithfully encouraging others; nurturing the sick; caring for the needy; filling the hearts and minds of many with hope and joy. Genuine faith inevitably produces an abundance of good works. As disciples we are set apart; we are a light in a dark world; we are divine instruments that point toward the one true and everlasting Father.
                Of all the planets and stars that glow in the night sky, one of the brightest is the North Star (known as Polaris.) Resting in a sea of stars it outshines most of its neighbors. Additionally, every other star in the northern hemisphere travels across the sky; Polaris however, remains fixed; a characteristic that proved useful to ancient mariners who sought to navigate the open oceans. The North Star’s brightness and stability make it easy to recognize; a heavenly body that is not readily confused with the thousands of dimmer objects that surround it.
                Like the North Star, the believer is by far the brightest and most stable object in the lives of those around them. In a sea of unbelievers, the followers of Jesus Christ standout; they are unique. Filled with compassion, charity, and peace, they are easily recognized. They orient others by pointing them toward God (who is the source of all love and mercy.) If you have received the salvation of the Lord, then you too are different. Don’t seek to remain hidden. Instead, let the light of Christ shine through you; that others may see your good works and know that there is a God who loves them.
                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to be different. We desire to be more loving, more caring, and more giving. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, and help us to shine brightly in this dark and often cold world. May others see our good works and be drawn to You; the loving Creator and everlasting Father. 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.

Praying with expectancy

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11: 22 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Faith is defined as a strong belief or trust in God’s abilities.  He alone is able to move mountains, heal the sick, and raise the dead.  Jesus urges every follower to pray with a measure of expectancy.  We must truly believe that God is willing and able to provide for each and every one of our needs.  When we ask in faith, and do not doubt, we can fully expect to receive the desires of our heart.

            Hudson Taylor was a prominent missionary who lived in the 1800’s.  He established the China Inland Mission, an organization that still exists to this day (known now as the OMF.)  On his first journey to China, his ship hit a patch of windless ocean and began to drift uncontrollably toward an island known to be inhabited by vicious cannibals.  The concerned captain approached Mr. Taylor and asked him to pray to God for help.  “I will” said Taylor, “Provided you set your sails to catch the breeze.”  The captain refused, not wanting to appear silly for unfurling in a dead calm.  Taylor replied saying, “I will not undertake to pray for the vessel unless you will prepare the sails.”  The captain reluctantly obliged.  Soon there was a knock at Hudson’s door; “Who is there?”  The captain replied, “Are you still praying for wind?”  “Yes” responded Taylor.  “Well” said the captain, “you’d better stop praying, we have more wind than we can manage.”

            Hudson Taylor understood the principle of praying with expectancy.  He prayed knowing full well that God would answer his prayer.  If we pray with that same confidence and faith, we too, will receive the blessings of the Lord.  May our hearts be free from doubt; may our requests be brave and bold; and may we fully expect our prayers to be answered according to the measure of our faith.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, You are an amazing and mighty God.  Create in us faithful hearts; hearts that do not doubt; hearts that completely trust in Your ability to provide for our needs.  May we always pray with confidence, unwavering faith, and genuine expectancy.  We love You Father, we praise You, and 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. 

Sacrifice leads to blessings

JESUS SPEAKING

                So He 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: 29-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                All valuable things have a price; and eternal life is no exception.  Although salvation is free, reconciliation requires sacrifice.  The cost for following Jesus Christ is high; most endure persecution, affliction, and hardship (many are ridiculed and socially ostracized.)  Obedience frequently produces loss; the loss of wealth and possessions; the loss of a home, a career, a family, or a friend; (there are even those who have laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel.)  From the time of the resurrection until today, not one righteous sacrifice has ever been committed in vain; for God has promised to replace every offering with something far greater.  To die as a peaceful martyr is to live forever in the His Kingdom.  To lay down earthly possessions is to grab hold of God’s eternal riches.  To suffer affliction for righteousness (here and now), is to one day experience unending freedom, and everlasting peace [Note:  God doesn’t just provide heavenly blessings; he also provides the faithful with many earthly blessings (wives, husbands, children, friends, etc.)]        

                Some time ago while serving at my church, I met a pastor named Greg.  A few years earlier he had been the starting quarterback for a division one college football team.  As he headed in to his senior year, his future looked promising.  Many expected him to excel, and to eventually enter the NFL draft.  According to the world, his life was an example of success.  Yet God had other plans for Greg.  Before the start of his senior year, he felt the Lord calling him in to full time ministry.  After much contemplation and prayer, Greg chose to sacrifice his probable fame and fortune to serve God.  When he announced his decision not to return for his final season, his coaches were mystified and his friends believed he had gone crazy.  In the eyes of the faithless he was making a very serious mistake.  Nearly four years after making his decision, Greg has never been more satisfied.  He is joyfully serving the Lord and has a beautiful wife, and has one young child.  He has sacrificed much, yet in return, he has received many priceless blessings (“and in the age to come, eternal life.”)  [Note:  Many necessary sacrifices often deal with sin.  Some years ago, when God began to remove the sins from my life, I was separated from many of my friends.  Because I no longer partied, the invitations to social functions became scarce.  I was no longer the irresponsible potty mouth that many had come to know and love.  One friend even remarked, “I like the old Jess better.”  I lost many friends when I gave up certain sins; but I gained far more.  God replaced the old with the new, and today my life is filled with healthy, loving, and caring individuals.]

                The Christian life requires sacrifice.  Letting go of what is evil and grabbing on to what is good, is not without consequence.  Obedience to the Lord produces loss; yet, for every earthly surrender there is a heavenly reward.  Trust in the Lord; sacrifice any sinful areas of your life upon God’s Holy altar; submit yourself to His leading, and you will experience all of the blessings he has promised to those who love and serve Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to sacrifice our lives to serve You.  May we accomplish Your will no matter the cost.  Remove any sins that stand in our way.  Give us a new heart; give us new desires; may we die so that You may live.  We thank You in advance for the blessings You have promised us.  We submit our lives to You now in faith.  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.

Making God the Priority

JESUS SPEAKING

            Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.”  And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 38 – 42.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            After eagerly welcoming Jesus in to her home for the evening, Martha began feverishly serving her new guests.  In Jewish culture, the women were traditionally responsible for meal preparation.  Martha therefore became angry when she saw Mary sitting at Christ’s feet, intently listening to His every word.  She attempted to correct her sister, and was in turn corrected by the Lord.  Martha (unlike Mary) had failed to place God first, ahead of all of her other duties.

            In the 1500’s a German Monk named Martin Luther sparked the protestant reformation (a movement that sought to restore the church to biblical truths, as opposed to church traditions.)  As the leader of this movement, he was a very busy man.  Despite his many responsibilities, Marin Luther woke up early every morning to spend time in prayer.  It has been said that on his busiest days, he would wake up even earlier, conceding that on those days he needed God even more.  

            Like Martin Luther, we must make God the number one priority.  The distractions in life are innumerable; the busier we are, the less time we have to complete our daily tasks.  On our busiest days we can act like Martha and make less time for God and more time for our chores.  Or, we can choose to behave like Mary and make God our top priority.  When we read scripture, pray, and seek God’s will first thing in the morning we make the right choice.  When we make God the priority, everything else falls in to its proper place; and the peace of the Lord will remain in us, as He accomplishes His works through us.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to make You the most important thing in our lives.  May life’s busiest moments never distract us from focusing on Your goodness.  Teach us; love us; pour out Your Spirit in us, that we might be used to effectively accomplish Your will in this place.  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.


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