Posts Tagged 'Jesus'

Who’s traveling with you?

JESUS SPEAKING

            Now it happened, on a certain day, that he got into a boat with his disciples.  And he said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  And they launched out.  But as they sailed he fell asleep.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him and awoke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”  Then he arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.  And they ceased, and there was a calm.  But he said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be?  For he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him!” (Luke 8: 22-25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The Sea of Galilee is the lowest (below sea level) freshwater lake in the world.  Because it sits beside the Mediterranean, warm and cool air collide; producing fierce storms that arise almost instantaneously.  Jesus and his disciples were crossing this sea when a violent squall threatened to capsize their vessel.  As the Lord peacefully slept in the back of the boat, his companions began panicking.  Fear caused them to forget who was accompanying them on their journey.  After being roused, Jesus calmed the storm and asked them, “Where is your faith?”  Fear and faith are natural enemies.  The presence of one often signals the absence of the other.  People are gripped with fear when they lose faith in the God who dwells within them.  He is a loving Father who has promised to ‘never leave us, nor forsake us.’  As David once wrote in Psalm 23, “I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.”

            Some time ago, I interacted with a man who frequented the coffee shop where I studied.  He often appeared to be under a great deal of stress.  His fearful, unsettled, and distracted demeanor was difficult to overlook.  One day he leaned over and said, “Can you give me a scripture, or something from the bible that will help me remember that ‘God will never give me more than I can handle?”  I recalled for him the story of Jesus calming the storm.  His disciples feared they were going to capsize and drown; but God kept them from perishing.  I reminded him that the size of the waves and the level of desperation were unimportant; rather, what truly mattered was who was traveling in the boat with him.  By implication, he understood that if Jesus was in his heart, he would always stay afloat.

            Today, our lives are like vessels gliding across the sea.  Sometimes the surface is tranquil; and sometimes it’s stormy; only those who invite Jesus to accompany them on their voyage will make it to the other side.  No true believer will ever slip beneath the waves; for the Lord himself will cause the wind and waves to cease.  When you feel fear, remember the promises of God; have faith and you’ll survive whatever storm you’re enduring; your life will be preserved because the Lord is with you.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always remember that Your Son dwells within our hearts; accompanying us as we journey through life.  Protect us from the storms that arise along the way; destroy our fears and increase our faith.  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 a number of 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 similar forms of persecution.

                Eleven of the twelve disciples were brutally martyred for their unwavering faith (the twelfth was imprisoned until his eventual death.)  Each disciple 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 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 women 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 midst 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 kind 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; making every effort to lead others to God.  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.

Division is destructive

JESUS SPEAKING

                “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Mathew 12: 25.)

INSIPRED THOUGHTS

                Division produces strife, which in turn, creates weakness.  There are many forms of conflict, but the most damaging is by far, ‘internal conflict.’  Hatred amongst friends is often more damaging than hatred amongst enemies.  Divisiveness breaks the bonds between husbands and wives; it sets parents against their children; it destroys relationships and tears families apart; it defeats armies, and conquers entire nations.  The body of Christ is a divine family and a Holy Nation; made perfect in unity and peace.  Amongst God’s children, resentment, hostility and hatred have no place; for they lead to division; and division leads to destruction.

                Throughout its brief history, the United States has been involved in many military confrontations.  Despite the numerous wars waged in foreign lands, the bloodiest of all conflicts was fought on American soil.  In the 1860’s the U.S. erupted in a Civil War, which claimed nearly 620,000 lives and produced millions of crippled war veterans.  The property damage was astronomical, and the cost of the war exceeded 6 billion dollars (the city of Atlanta was burned to the ground.)  Railroads were destroyed, homes (and businesses) were vandalized, and whole crops were set ablaze.  As a nation was torn in two, its families also felt the sting of division and opposition.  There are many historical accounts of siblings fighting against one another in battle.

                Much like 1860’s America, the church has historically experienced great disunity.  There have been divisions regarding: differing methods of baptism; the observance of certain holidays; adherence to dietary restrictions; the structure of authority within the church (the recognition of a Pope); priestly marriage; confessional; child baptism, etc.  These divisions have caused weakness to infect the body of Christ.  To avoid division, it is the duty of every believer to place the emphasis upon a common faith in Jesus Christ; and to avoid arguing over ‘uncertain things.’  We are united in our mutual faith, our acceptance of His Sacrifice, our desire for obedience, and our hope in His future return.  Love those who love the Lord; fellowship with the body of Christ; draw near to your eternal brothers and sisters; and may nothing divide you or set you apart, for you “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to be one with our brothers and sisters.  May the things that divide us be removed; that we may love those whom you have made Holy.  Forgive our divisiveness and cleanse our hearts of hatred and resentment.  Strengthen and unite Your body; that we might stand firm in the midst of hardship, and overcome the trials and the tribulations of this life.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and we pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Rest is important

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.  And he said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed in the boat by themselves” (Mark 6: 30-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus sent the apostles out on a short missionary trip.  They were commanded to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to preach the gospel throughout the land of Israel.  They returned with a good report; under his authority they were able to perform many miracles.  The crowds however, had not permitted them much rest.  The Lord saw that they had been wearied by the long hours, and needed to relax.  In turn, he led his disciples in to a deserted place; away from the crowds and the clamor of the ministry.  God desires for his children to have a certain amount of rest.  Rest is an essential part of maintaining physical, mental, and spiritual health.

                Nowhere in the world is work more highly esteemed than in the United States of America.  Many put their careers ahead of their families, their friends, and sadly, even their God.  Seventy hour work weeks at the office are not uncommon.  Currently, because of technology, the problem has gotten worse; people aren’t just working at the office; they are now working everywhere they go.  Many work while they are driving; some work at the gym; some work from home; some even work while on vacation.  All of this work has caused large numbers of people to neglect their need for rest.

                Jesus Christ recognizes that every human being needs time to relax.  Many of us walk through life without taking time out to recuperate.  Some of us have pushed ourselves too hard.  We need to remember that rest is essential, and that relaxation is a gift from the Lord.  Take time out to fellowship with God one on one; relax and allow your mind, body, and spirit to regenerate.  Give God a portion of your day; a time of peace and quiet reflection.  If you would only take the time to listen, in those still moments, you would hear the voice of God speaking to your heart, and you would grow strong.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desire to rest, and to take time out to fellowship with You; when we neglect our need for relaxation, speak to our hearts and help us to find the time to pursue peace.  In our moments of rest, we ask that You fill us with Your Holy Spirit; speak to our hearts and give us strength and courage to continue doing Your work 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.

Loving Lepers

 

JESUS SPEAKING

            And it happened when he was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then he put out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  Immediately the leprosy left him.  And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded you” (Luke 5: 12-14.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

             Not only does leprosy rot away fingers, toes, ears, and noses, it is also highly contagious.  Those who contracted the disease were removed from their communities and homes, and were required to live in isolation.  When lepers encountered travelers, they were obligated to yell, “Unclean, Unclean,” as a warning to others.  In desperation, a leprous man approached Jesus, and was healed by a single touch.  Knowing the man desired to return to his family, Jesus commanded him to go and show himself to the priest.  [In Jewish culture, the priests diagnosed social diseases like leprosy.  When a person claimed to be healed, they were required to go before the priests for examination.  If they were truly clean they would be allowed to return home.]

             Some time ago while studying in the coffee shop I frequented, I met a man who was troubled.  I introduced myself, and we began talking about his situation.  He had been released from prison two months earlier and no one wanted to rent him a room because of his criminal record.  He had been living in his mother’s car.  He couldn’t find work because he didn’t have a stable residence.  I was moved to share the love of Christ with him, and I invited him to attend a bible study in my home.  I told him his past didn’t matter to me, or to God.  In the eyes of the world, he was as leprous as the man Jesus healed.  The Lord used me to reach out to him, and to touch his sick and hurting soul.  He was able to see that there was a God who loved him.

             Every day, all around us, there are people who are treated like lepers:  drug addicts; criminals; the mentally ill; gang members; and the homeless (to name a few.)  Although the world has turned its back on many, God has not; the outcasts are His children too.  Our task is to bring God’s message to those who have been rejected.  When you encounter the unloved, show them that God loves them.  Find an outcast and talk to them; eat with them; help them; and care for them.  Don’t be afraid, but rejoice; for God has chosen you to be a messenger of peace; to bring His love and mercy to those who need it the most.

             “Lord heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would give us compassionate hearts.  Use us to touch those who are untouchable.  May our fears be replaced by love.  Provide us with opportunities to care for those who have been rejected.  Give us more of Your Holy Spirit, that we might show sinners the love of a Savior.  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.

Producing much fruit

JESUS SPEAKING

            “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12: 23 – 25.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Utilizing an agricultural metaphor, Jesus makes reference to His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.  A single grain of wheat, when planted, can produce hundreds, thousands, and even millions of additional seeds.  Similarly, the Lords’ suffering and agony upon the cross (and ensuing resurrection) has produced much fruit.  His selfless sacrifice has inspired countless conversions, and enabled millions to receive the mercy and grace of God.

            In the 1800’s there resided a little girl from Philadelphia name Hattie Wiatt.  She lived in close proximity to a popular and very crowded Grace Baptist Church.  One day she approached the Church and asked to attend the Sunday school.  Sadly she was told that there was no more room.  Less than two years later, Hattie fell ill and passed away.  A pocket book containing 57 pennies was found underneath her pillow; it was wrapped in a piece of scrap paper; written on the paper was a note that read, “To help build the little temple bigger, so that more children can go to Sunday school.”  She had saved her pennies for 2 years intending to give them as a donation to the church.  The pastor told his congregation of Hattie’s selflessness.  Immediately donations began pouring in until they had collected nearly $250,000 dollars.  Soon the church was seating 3,300 people; the parishioners also chose to build a hospital as well as a university accommodating approximately 1,400 students (today, attendance at Temple University has grown to nearly 28,000.)  Hattie’s sacrifice, although small, has gone on to produce much fruit.

            Like Hattie, we are called to selflessly lay down our lives to “build the little temple bigger.”  To sacrifice our own wants and desires so that others may come to know the love of God.  When we serve our fellows, love our neighbors, and give to those in need, we bear much fruit.  Those who strive to live selflessly will come to know peace; true peace; heavenly peace; eternal peace; “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”

            “Lord Heavenly Father, You are truly an amazing and awesome God.  We desperately desire to be selfless; we yearn to lay down our lives so that others may come to know You.  Help us to enjoy and embrace serving, giving, and loving.  May we produce much fruit and bring many souls into Your everlasting Kingdom.  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.

Forgiving

 

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

                Withholding forgiveness from others is dangerous; for the Lord has said, “if you do not forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus used a ‘seven’ to describe the number of times a disciple is obligated to forgive others.  In the Hebrew culture, numbers carried very profound symbolic significance; the number seven represents completion; in turn, the obligation to forgive is limitless, infinite, or complete.  Since the fall of creation, until the present day, men and women have fervently sought God’s forgiveness; none whose hearts were sincere have ever been denied (for God is merciful above all things.)  We are called to be like God; and so we must forgive without exception.

                One day a group of missionaries and local Christians gathered together in New Guinea to share communion and to fellowship.  As they sat down, one of the older missionaries noticed another man’s momentary expression of horror and disgust; which was quickly replaced with an expression of peace.  The missionary whispered to his friend, “What was it that troubled you?”  He replied, “The man who just came in to share communion, murdered my Father.  For a moment I didn’t think that I could handle it.  But then I realized that he has been washed and forgiven by the same precious blood.”  The men then shared communion together in love.

                To what extent should we forgive others?  Jesus has taught us to forgive without stipulation or condition.  We, who have been forgiven so much, have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.  Search your heart; if you find hatred discard it; if you discover resentment let it go.  Forgive those who have harmed you; bless them and pray for them.  Allow the Holy Spirit to help you, and your anger will ‘give way’ to peace, and your bitterness will turn to joy.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, forgive us of our sins.  May we be like You; may we sincerely forgive others.  If we have refused to forgive anyone, please reveal it to us now.  If we harbor anger or resentment of any kind, expose it; fill our hearts with mercy, that we might better serve You, and worthily magnify Your Holy 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.


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