Posts Tagged 'sacrifice'

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!

Difficult Choices

JESUS SPEAKING

     Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  And he took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be troubled and deeply distressed.  Then he said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch.”  He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done” (Mark 14: 32-36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

    After eating the Passover meal, Jesus and his disciples traveled to a garden area near the temple, known as Gethsemane.  There, in solitude, clothed in a heavy garment of darkness, the first drops of blood and sweat dripped from the forehead of God’s only Son; this peaceful garden became the scene of the greatest battle ever fought; the knock-down-drag out fight for the redemption and salvation of mankind.  With the pain of his crucifixion looming on the horizon, Jesus experienced overwhelming anguish.  Falling on his face in agony, he asked God to use an alternative means of accomplishing mankind’s deliverance; but in the same breath he also said, “nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”  In a single sentence the battle had been won, and the world would come to know true obedience.  God’s will and our will are often in great opposition.  Like Jesus, there are moments when we are required to make difficult choices.  Do we choose to do what is right, despite any resulting hardships; or do we choose what is evil because it is less painful.

  [Warning:  Some individuals may find the following information disturbing.  If you have ever undergone an abortion, remember that God loves you; if you have asked Him for forgiveness, then you are guilty of nothing; by the blood of Christ you are a ‘new creation.’]  Statistically, nearly 25% of all women will have at least one abortion by the time they are 45 years old.  Every year, approximately 879,000 thousand women choose to abort their developing babies because it is the easy way out.  A quick trip to the clinic and a life is traded for a few more years of freedom; a future job; or, greater financial security.  In a 2004 study, 86% of abortions were justified by one of the following excuses: ‘unready’ (25%); ‘Can’t afford a baby now’ (23%); ‘has all the children she wanted, or all children are grown’ (19%); ‘has relationship problems or wants to avoid single parenthood’ (8%); ‘is too immature or young to have child’ (7%); ‘would interfere with education and career plans’ (4%).  Regardless of the excuse, the true cause is selfishness (Definition of selfishness: ‘exclusive regard for one’s own interest or happiness; supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his/her own interest, power, or happiness.’)

    Women and men who choose life, have made the decision to do what is right; and yet the correct path is frequently the most difficult.  Quite often, following God’s will is very costly.  Every disciple must embrace hardship and self-sacrifice.  Denying our own desires to satisfy the will of God is a daily battle that can only be won when we say, “nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”   The cost of eternal life is death; to live, we must lay down our lives here.  May each of us choose to serve God rather than ourselves; may we do what is right, no matter the cost; may we joyfully embrace a life of sacrifice; and may we always accomplish the perfect will of our Everlasting Creator.

    “Lord Heavenly Father, You truly are awesome and amazing God.  Help us to accomplish Your will.  Give us the strength and the courage to embrace any difficulties that may arise from doing what is right.  Guide us and direct us, that we might know what is pleasing to You.  May we deny our own desires when they are not incongruent with Your wishes.  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!

Sacrifice

JESUS SPEAKING

        But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 29 – 37.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        In this parable a man is badly beaten, and left to die on the side of the road. The Jews considered Samaritans to be Godless degenerates; yet in this illustration, the only one to show compassion and love for the wounded stranger, is a Samaritan. His love was expressed in the form of sacrifice. Unlike the Levite and the priest, the Samaritan sacrificed his time, his wealth, and his reputation to aid the injured man. Without sacrifice there is no real proof of love.
        Infants undeniably demand a great deal of time, attention, and resources. ‘Good parenting’ is therefore a synonym for ‘Sacrifice.’ New parents can expect to forfeit many privileges on behalf of their children. It is estimated that in the first year of a child’s existence, they will need to be changed 2500 times and fed every 4 hours (although the number varies widely.) Similarly, newborns must be burped, bathed, clothed, held, and played with regularly; actions which require great selflessness and sacrifice.
        Like the Samaritan, and like any good parent, Jesus Christ has asked His children to lay down their selfish pursuits to love and care for those in need. If we embrace a spirit of sacrifice, then God will provide us with opportunities to love our families, our friends, and our neighbors. As we accomplish the will of God, our hearts will know peace and we will inherit the eternal blessings He has promised to those who faithfully serve Him.
        “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and ask for the courage and strength to embrace sacrifice; may we be filled with compassion; may we always seek the lost; and may continually love those in need. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, may we become more like You each and every day. 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.

Letting Go and Grabbing Hold

JESUS SPEAKING

        “Again, the kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mathew 13: 45-46.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        The message of “The kingdom of God,” is a priceless treasure; a treasure more valuable than gold. For contained within it is the gift of eternal life and the love of God. As Jesus preached the message, a fortunate few recognized the truth and were willing to trade in all of their possessions to receive the Lord’s everlasting gift. Many who came to believe, sacrificed great wealth, time, relationships, homes, and lofty positions within the community in order to take hold of the true riches of God’s eternal kingdom. As believers, we must let go of the world in order to fully embrace the Lord.
        Some people actually make a living letting go of one thing, so they can grab hold of another. Trapeze performers, for example, swing effortlessly back and forth, high above cold concrete floors. For these men and women, timing and precision can often mean the difference between living and dying. The man, who risks his life to spin through the air, must know when to let go of his swing and when to grab hold of his partner, dangling from the opposite swing. So too, the gospel is a message about ‘letting go’ and ‘grabbing hold;’ no one can ‘grab hold’ of the Kingdom of God unless they fist ‘let go’ of whatever they are clinging too in this world. For the Christian, the pursuit of worldly rewards must end, and the pursuit of Godly rewards must begin.
        Sadly, during the Lord’s public ministry, thousands simply passed by him as he spoke; they chose to cling to their own lives rather than to grab hold of God and the life He was offering them. Today, the Lord is still speaking; his message is still being proclaimed throughout the world. Many still choose the temporary pleasures of this life over the eternal peace of God. Most refuse because the Christian life is not easy. There are many trials and hardships that accompany genuine faith. Self-sacrifice and self-denial aren’t always popular, but they are necessary. May we all choose to let go of our selfish pursuits. May we loosen our grasp on the things of this world; and may we grab hold of and embrace the free gift of God.
        “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask that You give us the strength to avoid selfish living; we long to serve others, and to sacrifice our lives to accomplish Your desires. May we receive your kingdom with gladness, and may we let go of anything that is hindering us from completely submitting to Your perfect will. 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 references 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 endless conversions; enabling 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 their 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 some 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.

Blessings that come from Sacrifice

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 certainly no exception. Although salvation is free, reconciliation requires sacrifice. The cost for following Jesus Christ is often quite high; most believers will endure persecution, affliction, and numerous hardships. In turn, genuine obedience frequently produces loss; the loss of possessions, property, and prestige; the loss of a home, a career, and even certain family members and friends; some have even laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel. Still, from the time of the resurrection until today, not one righteous sacrifice has ever been committed in vain; for God has promised to replace each offering with something far greater. To die as a peaceful martyr is to live forever in the His Kingdom. To lay down our earthly possessions is to grab hold of God’s eternal riches. To suffer affliction for righteousness is to one day experience unending freedom and everlasting peace. And yet God’s rewards aren’t solely relegated to the heavenly realm. He also provides the faithful with many earthly blessings; wives, husbands, children, careers, possessions, 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 into full time ministry. After much contemplation and prayer, Greg chose to sacrifice any potential fame and fortune to serve God. When he announced his decision not to return for his final season, his coaches were mystified; many of his friends thought he had gone crazy. Those who were worldly thought he was making a very serious mistake. However, approximately four years after making his decision, Greg told me he had never been more satisfied. He is now joyfully serving the Lord; he also has a beautiful wife and a young child. By sacrificing much he has received a number of priceless blessings in return; “and in the age to come, eternal life.”

       The Christian path requires great sacrifice. Letting go of what is useless and grabbing hold of what is good isn’t without consequence. Obedience to the Lord produces loss; yet for every earthly loss there is a heavenly reward. Trust in the Lord; sacrifice any meaningless and unprofitable areas of your life and place them upon God’s Holy altar; submit yourself to His leading and you will experience all of the blessings that He has promised to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

     “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to sacrifice our lives in service to 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 to provide, and 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, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you!

Blessings and Cursings

JESUS SPEAKING

        “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when men hate you […] for the Son of Man’s sake […] for indeed your reward is great in heaven […] But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6: 20-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

        The pronouncement of blessings and cursings was an intimate part of the Jewish culture.  Many Israelites would bring their children to the Rabbi’s to undergo a formal blessing.  A blessing is a prophetic profession of some future good in an individual’s life.  A cursing however, foretells of some impending calamity.  The blessings that Jesus pronounced over the crowds were entirely dependent upon their reaction to his message.  Those who chased after the passing pleasures of this life would ultimately enter into unending sorrow.  Those who chose to deny their own desires in order to serve God, would eventually inherit eternal rewards.  Without question, every true believer must embrace sacrifice.  Some common sacrifices include wealth, a potential career, power, property, selfish indulgences, and often even a good reputation.  Because the path to peace with God includes enduring some form of present pain, the majority of individuals will continue to reject the gospel message.

        In order to understand this scripture, we need only look at the modern day credit card crisis.  Right now, Americans possess some of the highest individual debt than nearly any other time in our nation’s history.  Although not always, this current epidemic is the direct result of extreme self-indulgence.  When a person goes out shopping and they can’t afford something, they will often use a credit card to avoid having to deny themselves some passing pleasure.  But paying for things with money we don’t have doesn’t make the pain disappear; it simply postpones it.  Eventually the credit card company is going to come looking for their money; causing those who have fed their fleshly appetites to endure the suffering they so desperately attempted to avoid.

        Many people have spent an entire lifetime avoiding pain and indulging in pleasurable endeavors.  However, their agony has only been deferred, rather than eliminated.  They will eventually be required to ‘pay the check.’  Chasing after wealth, material possessions, careers, and even a good reputation can lead to an eternity of pain.  Still, self-denial is the way to inherit eternal blessings.  Volunteering, using our excess wealth to bless the needy, spending time listening to others, evangelizing, as well as visiting widows and orphans, are just a few of the ways we can deny ourselves in this life.  Where are you currently denying yourself?  What do you have in excess?  Is it time, money, or knowledge? What can you give away?  By denying yourself, you will become a servant of the living God; and in the coming kingdom, you will receive the blessings of eternal life.

        “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to willingly endure pain in the present; that we might refuse our own desires in favor of fulfilling Your purposes.  May we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow You.  Reveal to us where we can be more selfless; where we can be more giving; and where we can be more loving.  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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