Posts Tagged 'the words of Jesus Christ'

Persecution

JESUS SPEAKING

          “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mathew 5: 10 – 12.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          From the time of the resurrection until today, true believers have always been verbally and physically persecuted for their faith.  Of the original 12 disciples, 11 were violently murdered, and the twelfth was imprisoned for life.  Throughout the centuries, the body of Christ has suffered affliction; millions have been martyred; many more have been discriminated against, despised, and socially ostracized.  Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”  Because persecution is a sign of genuine obedience, many are able to take pleasure in adversity; in the midst of hardship the faithful are not without a sense of peace; for to endure pain for Christ is to experience great joy, and to suffer and die for him is to understand what it means to truly live.

          Throughout the fourth century, the Roman Empire was actively persecuting professing Christians.  In the year 320 A.D. a group of believing soldiers from Rome’s twelfth legion paid the ultimate price for their faith.  The Emperor Licinius decreed that every Roman soldier was obligated to offer sacrifices to the pagan Gods.  Forty Christian men refused to obey his command; in turn, they were immediately ordered to disrobe. After being marched on to a frozen lake they were informed that they could return to shore at any time, as long as they were willing to obey (the officers had even prepared hot baths for those who chose to relent.)  As they froze, the exposed soldiers huddled together and began to sing songs and to praise God; in their hour of suffering they expressed overwhelming joy.)  One by one, they perished.  Sadly, a single solitary man did relent; but astonishingly another soldier who had been observing the spectacle was so moved by what he had seen that he instantly gave his life to Jesus Christ; he removed his clothes and walked out on to the ice to join his dying brothers.

         Persecution is a part of genuine faith.  Those who oppose God, will oppose those who follow Him.  Obedience can produce much suffering.  When we suffer for righteousness, we can rejoice and be glad, knowing that we serve the Living God.  We must take up our cross; we must speak the truth; we must love without question, and give without stipulation.  We must walk by faith and avoid compromise.  In so doing, God will strengthen us in the hour of our greatest need; He will comfort us; He will give us victory; and we will inherit the riches of His Eternal Kingdom.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, as we undergo trials give us strength and fill us with Your Holy Spirit; that we may rejoice in suffering and persecution.  May we always praise Your Name; in good times and in bad.  May we never compromise; may we never be conformed to the image of this world.  May we live for righteousness and may we die for virtue.  Father, we love You, 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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Does God Love Me?

JESUS SPEAKING

          “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

           God is a loving Father who cares deeply for every man, woman, and child who has ever been born.  His love is so profound that He sent His only Son to suffer the punishment for our sins; that we might receive the gift of eternal life.  Because Jesus Christ was whipped, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified, the world has come to know the love of the almighty God; his pierced hands and feet are a perpetual reminder of the awesome measure of His affections.  Without sacrifice there is no proof of genuine love.

           Many years ago a man named William Dixon lived in Brackenwaite, England.  He was a widower whose only Son had tragically died.  There lived near him a grandmother who was raising her orphaned grandson.  One day their house caught on fire; although the aged grandmother was rescued, her grandson was trapped in the blaze.  Dixon climbed an iron pipe on the side of the house and lowered the boy to safety.  The hand he used to hold on to the pipe was badly burned.  Shortly after the fire, the grandmother died.  The townspeople wondered who would care for the boy.  Two volunteers appeared before the town council.  One was a father who had lost his son and wanted to adopt the orphan.  The other man was William Dixon.  When given the opportunity to speak, Mr. Dixon said nothing.  Instead, he simply raised his scarred hand in the air for everyone to see.  The vote was taken, and the boy was given to Dixon.

           Like Mr. Dixon, Jesus Christ endured much pain and suffering to save us from certain death.  His scarred hands and feet are perpetual reminders of His immense love.  Who better to call our master and our Lord than the one who sacrificed his life so that we could live?  Having received salvation, we are then compelled to lay down our lives for others.  Abandoning selfish pursuits, we are called to embrace the attributes of sacrifice, selflessness, and service.  Through our acts of kindness and love, God will continue to make known to the world the fullness of His affections.

           “Lord Heavenly Father we thank You for Your immeasurable love.  We praise you Jesus for the pain that you endured on the cross for us.  May our hearts continually be filled with gratitude.  May we follow Your example and lay down our lives to serve our fellows.  Give us the strength to forfeit our fleshly desires, that we might genuinely love others as You have so graciously loved us.  We honor 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.

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.

Keep Praying

JESUS SPEAKING

            And he said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Please, lend me three loaves; ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, but because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11: 5-10.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

           In Middle Eastern culture, welcoming visitors in to your home meant providing for all of their needs.  Guests were given food, shelter, and protection.  Failure to do so was considered a great disgrace.  In this parable, a tired and wearied traveler arrived at his friend’s home late in the evening.  The host, lacking the proper sustenance, approached his neighbor, hoping to acquire some food.  The sleeping man, irritated by the untimely appeal, denied his initial request.  However, the neighbor’s persistence eventually paid off.  In this parable, the request for food is a reference to prayer.  The unrelenting neighbor symbolizes those who pray without ceasing; and the man who supplied the food represents God, who enjoys and rewards those who tirelessly continue in prayer. 

            At the age of 23 an inquisitive youth from Gloucester, spied an advertisement in a Boston newspaper that read, “Wanted:  young man as an understudy to a financial statistician.  P.O. Box 1720.”  He responded to the ad by way of letter; but he received no reply.  He wrote a second letter, and then a third; still no reply.  So he made his way down to the post office and requested the name of the owner of Box 1720; but the clerk refused.  He then met with the Postmaster, but he too refused (claiming it was illegal to provide him with that information.)  The young man remained determined; he arose early in the morning, hopped on the first train to Boston, and entered the post office.  He stood patiently with his eyes fixed on box 1720.  After quite some time, a man appeared; he opened the box, grabbed the mail and left.  The young man followed him to his brokerage firm; he entered and asked to speak to the manager.  He told the manager that he had written three letters, before going to the post office where he was refused any further information.  The manager asked, “But how did you find out that I was the advertiser?”  The youth replied, “I stood in the lobby of the post office for several hours, watching Box 1720.  When the man came in and took the mail from the box, I followed him here.”  The manager said, “Young man, you are just the kind of persistent fellow I want.  You’re hired.”

            Similarly, God rewards those who are persistent in prayer.  All too often, our prayers are erratic and inconsistent.  Although we make our requests known to God, we frequently get discouraged when He doesn’t answer them immediately.  In turn, many simply stop asking.  If we have need of something, we must relentlessly make our requests known to God.  We may not receive the blessing on the 1st day, the 10th day, or even the 100th day; but if we are persistent, it will come.  We must never stop asking, never stop seeking, and never stop knocking.  God is listening; and He is willing and able to give us the desires of our heart.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, hear our prayers.  We stand at the door and knock; we will not relent until You bless us.  May we remain persistent in our prayers; may we be graced with patience and the strength to endure.  Transform our hearts and minds; provide for our needs; and fill us with the fullness of Your mercy and love.  We adore 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.

Faith is Meant to Grow

JESUS SPEAKING

                Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.  Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.  So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’  But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’  “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’  He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you are given authority over ten cities.’  And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also will rule over five cities.’  “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief; for I feared you, because you are a stern man.  You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’  In turn he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant.  You knew that I was a stern man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’  “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’  (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)  ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has more will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19: 11-27.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus had no intentions of immediately setting up God’s kingdom upon the earth (contrary to the beliefs of many who followed him.)  He used a parable to express his impending departure, and distant return.  Parables (short stories) forced the listeners to think; through contemplation, they could find the deeper spiritual truth.  Every story had characters, and every character represented a real life counterpart.  In this parable, the nobleman who went in to a far country to become king symbolized Jesus, who ascended into heaven (and now reigns with divine authority.)  He too, like the nobleman, promised to return.  The rebellious citizens, who hated the nobleman, exemplified all those who refused to accept Jesus Christ as their messiah.  The faithful servants he gathered together before his departure were his disciples (followers.)  In the parable, he gave them each a different amount of money.  The money, likely represents the measure of faith Christ has given every believer.  One day the Lord will return and call together his servants; each one will have to give an account of his (her) stewardship.  In our illustration there were two servants who increased what they had been given; they represent those who have put their faith to work; they have done good deeds, served others, and made great efforts to spread the gospel.  Those who do the same will receive great riches when Christ returns.  The unjust steward did nothing with his faith.  When the king returned, the unwise servant was stripped of all his possessions and numbered with the rebels.  Every believer receives a measure of faith; but Jesus sternly expects great things from his followers; those who have been faithful can expect to inherit eternal life.  Those who have selfishly squandered what they have been given are headed for destruction.

                The surface of the earth is clothed in garment of green.  There are thousands of different kinds of trees and everyone is unique and remarkable.  However, there is one tree that never fails to inspire awe and wonder in the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it; that tree is the mighty redwood;  these behemoth’s can tower to heights of over 300 feet; their trunks can reach widths of 20 – 26 feet (…wide enough to drive a car through.)  The tallest living redwood is recorded to be 379 feet tall; over ‘70 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.’  The oldest living redwood is believed to be 3,500 years old; when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt (approximately 1,500 years before Jesus was born) this little redwood was just beginning to sprout.  These trees are so large, it can be difficult to imagine their humble beginnings.  Redwood seeds are just 1mm wide (or 0.0393700787 of an inch.)  Like these mighty coniferous monsters, every living thing comes from a small seed.  Some seeds grow to be large, some remain small, but one thing can never be debated; every seed is designed to grow.  Faith is a seed planted in the hearts of men by the hands of God.  If that seed doesn’t grow, it has failed to accomplish its purpose. 

                Every believer has received a measure of faith; a small seed that must grow; as it grows, the lives of the faithful blossom with it; increased faith means increased kindness, increased obedience, and increased service to God and to others.  When our king returns he will be looking for more than just the seed he planted; he will be looking for a mighty tree; a towering example of divine love in the midst of a dark and desolate forest.  Do not be an unwise servant who tucks away what God has given him.  Instead, allow the faith of God to grow within you.  Push forward, onward, and upward; may you grow with God; may your good works increase; may others come to know Jesus Christ because they have seen your life; and may you receive the eternal blessings of your great king and mighty God.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we desperately desire for You to increase our faith.  Help us to grow in Your likeness; help us to do astonishing and mighty works for You.  Give us the direction, encouragement, and strength we need to accomplish Your will.  Without You we can do nothing; help us to remain faithful servants; men and woman who are ready to bring You a great increase.  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.

Fear Not, for the Lord is 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 is right next to the Mediterranean Sea, warm and cool air meet, creating fierce storms that arise almost instantaneously.  Jesus and his disciples were crossing this sea when a violent squall arose and threatened to capsize their vessel.  As the Lord peacefully slept in the back of the boat his disciples began to panic.  Fear had caused them to forget who was riding with them; neither could they recall that just moments earlier Jesus had said, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.”  After being roused from sleep the Lord calmed the wind and the waves and asked them, “Where is your faith?”  Fear and faith are natural enemies.  The presence of one often signals the absence of the other (and vice versa.)  People become fearful because they lose faith in the God who dwells within them; a God who will never leave them, nor forsake them.  As David wrote in Psalm 23, many years ago, “I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.”

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

            Today, our lives are like vessels floating on the sea.  Sometimes the seas are tranquil, and sometimes the seas are stormy; those who invite Jesus to accompany them on their journey will receive the promise; for the Lord has vowed that every true believer will make it to the other side.  No one traveling with the Son of God will slip beneath the waves.  He will calm the wind; He will still the seas; He will give you a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”  When you feel fear, remember His promises; and you will finish the race; you will keep the faith; and you will live, because the Lord is with you.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that Your Son would guide us; that he accompany us on our journey through life.  Protect us from the storms that might arise along the way; increase our faith; may we never fear knowing that You are with us.  Give us Your love, Your peace, and Your wisdom.  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.

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.  Many 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, wealthy, affluent, and well-educated.  Jesus however, fellow-shipped with repentant prostitutes and tax collectors; he reached out to the lame, and befriended many outcasts.  He refrained from showing any form of ungodly partiality; rather, he continually honored and esteemed only those things 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 mislead by worldly values, proclaimed, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him!”  God replied to Samuel, 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 youngest and weakest of Jesse’s son’s 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 God with his whole heart; his faith remained unshakable and his courage unfading.]

          In all cultures it is common to show partiality toward those who are wealthy, good looking, and affluent; yet to highly esteem such attributes at the expense of simple virtues 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 make an effort to avoid 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 in to 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 in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.