Posts Tagged 'Jesus Speaks'

A Difficult Question

JESUS SPEAKING

      “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my father” (John 15: 22 – 24.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      Jesus Christ preached throughout Israel for nearly three years before being crucified. He preached in the cities; in the wilderness; in the temple; in homes and on street corners; passing the message along to every capable Israelite. He became so well known that he had to travel from place to place by boat; to avoid being thronged by the crowds. Yet, despite seeing the miracles and hearing God’s message of repentance and forgiveness, many rejected him. Others chose to avoid hearing him all together; willfully embracing ignorance. Still, voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection; and therefore, not an acceptable excuse. On the contrary, those who were never made aware of the message, for whatever reason, are not under condemnation.
      During my many years of evangelism, I have interacted with numerous skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, who have used a common question to challenge God’s perfect justice: “If you can’t get to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ; what about the child in Africa who dies without ever having heard the gospel? Are they going to go to hell?” The answer is no. God does not condemn the naive. Those who are ignorant are innocent. Yet those who have heard, “have no excuse for their sin.” Many today refuse to open a bible or even enter a church; believing that by not accepting or rejecting Jesus they will avoid condemnation. They are wrong; voluntary ignorance is the same as complete rejection.
To this very day, the Followers of Jesus Christ continue to preach the gospel. Some accept him; some deny him; still others simply refuse to investigate. God forgives those who are genuinely naïve but condemns the willfully ignorant. There are very few places on Earth where Christ’s message has yet to be heard. Perhaps some remote tribe in the Amazon hasn’t encountered the gospel yet; or maybe a young child living in India remains ignorant?
      Our God is righteous and Holy; He commits no evil or injustice. We can therefore discern from this scripture that the genuinely ignorant are not eternally condemned. Once again, His word has provided the answer to a difficult question. Dive into the bible and you will find every answer you seek. Meditate upon His precepts and He will use you to preach the gospel; to illuminate the uninformed, and to bring hope to the hopeless. Through you, many will come to know His goodness, His mercy, and His love.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, we recognize Your perfect justice and acknowledge Your goodness and righteousness. May we, as believers, be equipped to answer every question we are asked. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit; may we be bold; may we illuminate darkened minds and preach the gospel to the ignorant. May we be Your messengers in this place. 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!

Absolute Forgiveness

JESUS SPEAKING

       “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17: 3-4.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       Those who desire God’s mercy must also be merciful; and those who yearn for His forgiveness must not withhold forgiveness from others. Hatred, anger, and resentment have no place in the heart of the believer; as unresolved bitterness creates division between God and His disciples. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Everyone who truly seeks to follow the Lord, will also attempt to imitate Him; thus, forgiving those who repent without restriction or exception. God’s mercy is immeasurable; and in turn, those who practice unconditional forgiveness are wonderful examples of His limitless love.
       In 1956, five American missionaries flew into the jungles of Ecuador; seeking to make contact with a hostile and war-like tribe of Indians known as the Waodani. All five men were speared to death. Their families were devastated by the loss; in a single day, many wives were widowed, and a handful of children were orphaned. But did the remaining family members seek vengeance? Did they cry out for justice? No. Instead Elizabeth Elliot (who had lost her husband), and Rachael Saint (who had lost her brother), remained obedient to God; forgiving the tribesman unconditionally. Elizabeth and Rachael continued evangelizing the natives. The Waodani people eventually invited them into their community. One by one, the members of the tribe began committing their lives to Jesus Christ. The men who had perpetrated the murders expressed great joy in knowing that they had been forgiven. The women eventually formed lifelong friendships with the individuals who had killed their loved ones. This unconditional forgiveness has given birth to the Waodani Church; a church that is currently thriving. They have abandoned their spears and picked up their bibles; going so far as to evangelize the other neighboring tribes as well (at great personal risk to themselves.) This amazing work of God was only made possible because two women were willing to forgive without restriction.
       Forgiving others is not a suggestion, a recommendation, or a request; it is a command; a command that heals both the forgiver and those who are forgiven. Is there anyone you’re angry with? Has someone caused you great pain? Then you must forgive them. Search your heart and ask God to give you the courage, and the strength to let go of your resentments; to lay down your hostilities; to do away with your bitterness. In turn, God will give you peace…and your heart will be filled with joy, as you walk in fellowship with the almighty and everlasting Father.
       “Lord Heavenly Father, search our hearts and reveal our hidden resentments. Give us the strength and the courage to forgive without restriction. May we love as You have loved. May we forgive as You have forgiven. We cherish 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!

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. Most 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, the wealthy, the affluent, and the well-educated. Jesus however, fellowshipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors. He reached out to the lame and befriended many outcasts. He also refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality. Instead, he continually honored and esteemed only those things which 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 misled by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!” God replied 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 smallest and weakest of Jesse’s sons 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 the Lord with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.
        In all cultures, it’s common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to overly esteem such attributes 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 avoid inappropriately 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 into 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.” God bless all of you!

Persecution

JESUS SPEAKING

      “If the world hates you, you will know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I have spoken to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15: 18 – 20.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

     Jesus was persecuted relentlessly during his earthly ministry. He was slandered publicly and privately. He was shunned by many, and ridiculed, even by members of his own family. His message was so offensive that he was nearly stoned to death on several occasions. Eventually, despite his miraculous feats, and his immeasurable love, Jesus Christ was abandoned by his closest friends; he was bound and beaten; spit upon and crucified. Those who choose to follow him can expect to experience some measure of similar persecution.
      Eleven of the twelve disciples were brutally martyred for their unwavering faith. They paid the ultimate price for fearlessly spreading the gospel throughout the known world. Although physical peril is a common type of persecution, it comes in many other forms. One day, many years ago, as I sat studying in the local coffee shop, I began talking with a Muslim friend concerning the tenants of the Christian faith. As I presented her with the gospel, a woman sitting next to us became visibly upset. Not knowing that we were already friends, she yelled “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to talk to you about that?” The woman continued to verbally harass me, making every effort to subvert the conversation. In the middle of the pestering, I looked at my friend and said, “This is the type of persecution that occurs when you become a believer.” Eventually the woman became so disruptive that we had to end our discussion.
      Persecution is an inevitable consequence of genuine faith. If we are not experiencing some form of persecution, then perhaps we are keeping our beliefs hidden away; choosing safety and security above obedience to the Lord. Still there are those who boldly spread the gospel message. These individuals can expect to be persecuted. Persecution, in any form, isn’t very pleasant; yet it is a reminder that we are earnestly following in the footsteps of our teacher, our master, and our friend.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, provide us with opportunities to preach the gospel to others. May we reach out to those who might become our brothers and sisters. Strengthen us when we encounter persecution; that we might stand firm in the faith. Give us courage to boldly speak the truth; that we would continue to emulate our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. 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 Honors Those Who Honor Him

JESUS SPEAKING

      Now as Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed and is dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (Mathew 8: 5-13.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      The Roman Empire conquered the Holy Land in 63 B.C.; and due to the continued threat of rebellion, there were soldiers permanently stationed there in the first century. A ‘centurion’ was an officer in charge of 100 soldiers; they were usually men of impeccable character. This centurion came to Jesus and humbled himself; he publicly confessed his own unworthiness and praised him; in so doing he honored God’s Son. Jesus then honored the centurion by publicly lifting up his faith above every Jew in Israel. God continues to honor those who lower themselves and exalt Him. Jesus has also said, “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
      In 1924, a Scotsman named Eric Liddell was expected to win the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meter dash. He had grown up in a missionary family and was a committed Christian. His parents had taught him to faithfully observe the Sunday Sabbath; a weekly day of rest, church attendance, and fellowship. When Eric found out that the 100 meter dash was scheduled for a Sunday, he made the decision to ‘sit it out.’ He was pressured to run by his countrymen, as well as an endless array of powerful people. Still, he remained convinced that honoring God on His day was more important than winning a medal. A few months before the Olympics began, he decided to start training for the 400 meter dash (an event that wasn’t on Sunday.) No one expected him to do well. But on the day of the race, while approaching the starting blocks, an American trainer placed a piece of paper in Eric’s hand. There was a bible verse written on it. 1 Samuel verse 2:30. The scripture reads, “Those who honor me I will honor.” Eric ran that race for God; and not only did he win the gold medal, but he also broke the world record. He had pushed his own desire for glory aside. Because he had honored God, the Lord exalted Eric above his fellows.
      Placing God in His proper position necessitates humility. Honoring Him requires selflessness. We become less important and He becomes more important. He is righteous and we are unrighteous; He is worthy, and we are unworthy. We forgo glory so that God may have it. Only those who raise Him up in this life will be raised up into everlasting life. There are so many ways to glorify God. We can make Him a continued topic of discussion in our personal relationships. We can pray to Him and seek His counsel daily. We can give credit to the Lord for the good works that we do. When we give something to another person, we can say, “This is from the Lord.” When a person attempts to thank us, we can politely remind them that Jesus Christ is the one they should thank. When others call us good, we can inform them that our goodness comes from God. May we continually place the focus on Him; may we give Him the glory; and may we honor Him with our lives.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, give us more opportunities to honor and glorify You. May our hearts be humble, and our minds pure. Give us the strength to lay down our lives in this world, so that we might better serve you. We love You Lord, we thank You, and we praise 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.

Giving God the Glory

JESUS SPEAKING

      ‘Now around the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not my own, but His who sent me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on my own authority. He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7: 14-18.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

      The educated men who had heard Jesus speak were astonished at his perfect knowledge of scripture. Unlike them, he did not attend a notable Hebrew school; nor did he sit at the feet of some prominent rabbi; instead, his knowledge and wisdom came from God (not man.) For their extensive learning, the Jewish scholars demanded admiration and praise; whereas Jesus sought to honor God. To chase after our own glory is to embrace unrighteousness. To glorify God and his only Son is to live correctly.
      One man who thoroughly understood this principle, was John the Baptist. When Jesus began baptizing people in the Jordan river, John’s followers became concerned; they said, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, he is baptizing, and all are coming to him.” John replied, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven […] he must increase, and I must decrease.” John was devoid of selfish pride. He chose to humble himself and glorify the Son of God (the Savior of the world.)
      Today, although Jesus Christ reigns in heaven, his deeds continue upon this Earth. He performs his miracles through his disciples. Some however, who desire glory, will take credit for God’s works. But a trustworthy servant renders to God the praise and honor He deserves. To glorify God, we must humble ourselves. He must increase and we must decrease. As followers, we forgo admiration so that God may receive what is His? We must speak the words of Jesus Christ; give in the name of Christ; and love in the name of Christ. We must die, so that He can live. Only then will we know immeasurable joy and everlasting peace.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, may You increase as we decrease. May we let go of our selfish need to be praised; that You may receive the credit for the good works that You are accomplishing in us, and through us. May we be vessels of Your love and mercy. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit Lord; that we might always be pleasing to You. 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.

Our Possessions Belong to God

JESUS SPEAKING

       And it came to pass, when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that he sent two of his disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went their way and found it just as he had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought him to Jesus (Luke 19: 29 – 35.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       The book of Zechariah prophesied that the messiah would arrive humbly; “riding on a donkey.” Jesus therefore sent out two disciples to procure an animal for his triumphal entry in to Jerusalem. When the men were confronted by the owners, they did as they were instructed; they responded saying, “The Lord has need of it” (in turn, they were permitted to leave.) Much has been written about this brief encounter; many commentaries likely highlight the omniscience of God, the wisdom of Christ, and the faithfulness of the disciples (with good reason.) Yet in the midst of God’s glory, there exists a nameless stranger; a generous man (or woman) who immediately recognized that his (or her) possessions were divine endowments; gifts from God that were to be used to serve the creator whenever He had need of them.
       Every year around the holidays, a Christian organization known as ‘Operation Christmas Child’ begins working with thousands of churches throughout the United States. Congregational members are instructed to fill shoeboxes full of toys and other items and deliver them to their local pastors. The boxes are then transported to a warehouse where they are sorted by volunteers, packaged, and shipped to impoverished nations around the world. Some time ago, I and a few other Christians volunteered at a nearby processing plant; we examined hundreds of boxes; the gifts were beautiful (some givers chose to include pictures of themselves and many had even taken the time to write letters.) Millions of people across the country were asked by God to give of their resources; millions responded to His call; in turn, many have come to experience the love of Jesus Christ.
       Our possessions are not our own; our time, our money, and our resources all belong to God. We are simply stewards of what we have been given. When the Lord calls, we must be willing to relinquish control of our goods so that others may know the love of Christ. Be still, and the Holy Spirit will tell you what and when to give. Be generous, be faithful, and you will experience the joy of the Lord; and His peace will fill your heart, now, and forevermore.
      “Lord Heavenly Father, give us opportunities to use our resources to further Your Kingdom. May we be generous; may we be faithful; may we serve others with gladness and singleness of heart; and may we never turn away from those who are in need. 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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