Peacemakers

Peacemakers 2

Matthew 5:9 (NLT) God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Are you a peace maker? Do you strive to maintain peace and harmony with others? Are you a relationship builder or breaker? Is the Lord really that concerned with our connections to others as long as we remain in unity with Him? How important is it? Well, God blesses those who work for peace. In some translations, it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” Why? They will be called the children of God. How does one find and maintain peace in the end times when love has grown cold and sin rampant as Jesus foretold? We must become peacemakers to be identified as God’s Children, so we must find a way…the Way.

John 14:27 (NLT) “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

We have been provided the Way to peace with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Way tells us that He has already given us peace of mind and heart. It is settled within our soul to be sons and daughters of God. We must only abide in His Love to remain connected to righteousness as receivers of His Grace completely empowered to do all things through Jesus Christ. He gives us the kind of inner peace that completes us so that all expectations are met in Him. His Spirit inside of us is constantly cultivation love, joy and peace all with other beneficial and satisfying fruit to feed new relationships from a source that will never run out. We have perfect peace. It is complete. It is whole. God doesn’t give pieces of peace but in Christ we are completely reunited with Him.

I Peter 3:10-12 (NLT)  For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

In an effort to turn from evil and do good, the instructions say to search for peace and work to maintain it. The Lord is watching us. His Ears are open when we struggle in this endeavor. But if God has already accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and given us His Peace to reconnect with the Father, what kind of peace must we search for and strive to know? Peace with all mankind. The Kingdom has to be united. Without peace, it is not possible for a country to be at rest. We must be at peace with each other. Not complacent peace that only is with those who agree with us, but even with those who constantly oppose or offend us. The commitment to peace is part of our covenant with Christ.

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

Peter is referencing Psalm 34 is in his letter to those he refers to as “God’s chosen people”. In chapter 3, Peter is addressing relationships. In this particular passage, he is speaking to all Christians. All of you should be of one mind (at peace). We must be sympathetic. Love one another as brothers and sisters. Not with fake superficial wordy love, but blood, sweat and tears kind of love – hands on and heart in – like Jesus loves us. We must be tenderhearted. This requires a humble attitude. We must keep our pride on the Cross daily crucifying our feelings, emotions and rightness for a constant and complete relationship with Jesus Christ AND everyone else.

Those who make peace and keep peace are Children of the living God not just in word but character as well. To love fully and completely will always produce a relationship at the price of our individuality. God has called us to live such a life and it comes with His Blessing. Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. So many times the thorn in our flesh has a face and personality, it is one person or a group of people that create hostility. Maybe they have talked about, betrayed, offended, or hurt us in a far greater unimaginable way – how is possible to forgive them and make peace with such people knowing they will more than likely not change, not apologize and never realize just how deep our wound is? It is only possible through the peace of God that passes all understanding. The kind of relationship with the Lord that allows Him to heal our wounds, restore our joy, and revive our heart so that we are not held captives by our feelings that are contrary to His Way, His Truth and His Life that He has planned for me.

The Grace of God given to us through His Son – Jesus Christ is always enough. The unearned and undeserved favor of the Living God dispensed through the Blood of His Precious Son is sufficient for God to accept our apology and restore us for righteousness sake. Who am I to withhold such grace that is the wonder working power that restores peace among God’s People? To withhold it means there is doubt as to its potency and that is simply not true. We must become God’s Gracious Peace Makers once again to build His Church and restore His Body to become His Bride.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Jesus is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He knows exactly how you feel and the struggles in our life – yet loves us and stays right there with us anyway. We must become peace makers again. This means capturing our worries, stress, and concerns about others and sending them to Jesus. If only we could put each one in a helium-filled balloon, so it could be carried far beyond our reach. We must become intent on gracious and thankful hearts set on pursuing peace with God which means establishing it on earth within our realm of influence. It is not about how the other person reacts to us but in our obedience in responding to God’s Love appropriately and reciprocating it as He has asked us to – loving one another. We must fix our thoughts. We must focus our heart and mind on Jesus who is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable and oh so faithful. He will produce love, joy and peace within us along with the other fruits needed to satisfy those around us while we are completely satisfied with His Love and Grace.

I must be honest before you today. This message is for me. I will be transparent. I am challenged by this in my own life. I must learn to make peace with all people to become a Child of God who lives in His Blessing and Favor. It must be my daily and ongoing effort to search for peace and seek to maintain it. Lord, help my wounded heart to receive peace and reciprocate it as You have instructed – In Jesus Name! Amen!

Psalm 29:11 (NLT) The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.

Advertisements

Worth the Fight

worth-the-fight

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Focus. I feel the need to refocus today. It happens. Life gets a little chaotic. Storms come rolling in. Bills pile up. Too many plates (responsibilities) spinning in the air. Kids are sick. Too many distractions create a smokescreen of busyness. Time in the Word runs out. Prayer closet is vacant. Presence is lost. Spirit is willing but oh how weak is our flesh. It’s time to refocus. What are we fighting for anyway? The priority list too long and running to the second page. Is it worth it? The things consuming my time, overwhelming my thoughts and causing such crises to steal my joy, rob my time and destroy my dreams. No, it’s not.

Satan must use deception, deceit, distractions and false representations to isolate us from the Lord. He works diligently to build a strong façade of lies, half-truths and traps out of the details of life. It is easy to fall for them sometimes because what we see is always bigger than the faith and hope which is unseen. To believe means trusting in the Lord while remaining focused on the only three things that remain over time. The only things worth fighting for are faith, hope and love.

I Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Why invest our life in temporary things rather than eternal treasure? Simple. Life is hard. Faith is a struggle. The struggle is real. Hope seems elusive when it should bear the weight of an anchor holding our soul steady but our boat is really rocking. The details of making it through a single day successfully seems so important but God is looking for just three things to call this day a win – faith, hope and love. Did you believe in Jesus? Do you trust Him? Do you love Him? See in the end these are the qualities which God is looking for in us. These are the three things that define our purpose and potential in life. When it is all said and done – will we be found full of faith, held by hope and bound by love?

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NLT) As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Faith is described from the beginning as small. It is referred to as the size of a mustard seed but absolutely essential to having eternal life. It is definitely worth fighting for but the first thing given up when the wind and waves start rocking the boat of life. Peter came out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, but soon became distracted by the storm and lost his focus on the Savior. Welcome to everyday life. This was a message for us that faith is a fight. It is not easily secured. It cannot be taken for granted. It makes us uncomfortable. It is marked by inconvenience. It challenges insecurity. It always produces change. The conditions and circumstances of our existence are defined by opportunities to learn to depend on the Lord. Otherwise, there would be no pressure to accept these undesirable situations to produce an inward resolve that the Lord is faithful. Who would take the chance? Who would seize the moment? No one would.

Faith is our purpose. It is the point of our life. To obtain a citizenship in the Kingdom of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ is overwhelming victory, not for the battles waged in the world, but the war over death and the grave. To use our faith for temporary things is not faith at all. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) We are tempted to relegate faith to earthy circumstances, conditions and challenges. Faith for healing, deliverance and provision. These are all part of the package. Faith is to believe in Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. It is the very seed that sprouts all these other wonderful benefits in our life. To put God in a box and let him out to make our natural life more comfortable, convenient and stable is not its potential. Faith’s potential is the salvation of our soul. It sets our sights on Heaven. This is the true potential of our life hidden deep in our heart since creation. God put eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) It is this inner belief that every other good thing or godly prosperity stems from. The enemy is out to take this from you. If he can convince us to forfeit faith for fear – He will steal, kill and destroy the purpose of God within us. Fight for your faith today.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NLT) A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Hope is the anchor for our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) It’s the very thing that holds our faith in place no matter what comes up in life. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we now have this place of undeserved privilege called hope to keep us standing on the firm foundation called faith. Without hope, what’s the point? Hope is our potential. It takes us beyond the natural to the supernatural. Moves us from possible to impossible. It takes us from the seventy or so years called life and gives us eternal life. It is every benefit and blessing that God has promised in His Word and according to His Way. Hope is the mark on the compass that faith sets its sight on. We must focus on securing our faith with confident hope.

Have you ever walked through a dark room making out the shadowy images? Familiarity allows us to navigate the sharp corners and obstacles in the room. However, when we turn on the overhead light – it causes immediate blindness. The radiating globe that was supposed to allow us to see more clearly suddenly makes it impossible to see anything. Our eyes need time to adjust. Darkness is turned to light in God’s Love. It takes time to discern the difference in things when His Love overtakes us and a new place called the Kingdom is obtained. Hope keeps us standing as we seek the Kingdom and clear away the darkness from our life. His Love is amazing. It illuminates our life and begins a process that is sometimes hard to discern because it is unlike the dark world that has been our home for so long. We expect things to turn out a certain way and when they do not most will abandon ship, run from the battle, or give up on the Lord.

We need God’s Armor to surround us. It protects the potential called hope. It reminds us. It fortifies our body, soul and mind in the midst of these trials that lead to perseverance, the tests that produce trust, and the waiting that becomes endurance. We don’t have to fight the enemy. He is already defeated. We must fight for faith and confident hope so that when he wages war against us – we can stand firm without wavering. It is important to fight for hope today it is the potential of our life.

Philippians 1:27 (NLT) Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Having three daughters who loved the Disney series, High School Musical, when I read this verse I hear the chorus of “We’re All in This Together” playing in my head. I have said it before and I must say it again. People are not the problem. The person who cussed you out, cut you off in traffic, hurt you, betrayed you, abused you, or just plain ticked you off is not the problem. They are not the thorn in our flesh unless we choose to allow them to be such. We are called to love another. We are commanded to love one another. Love defines disciples. Our ability to love even the most unlovable is the mandate of Christ for us. If you cannot love other people, you do not love God. You love people more. To love someone places expectation in them to love you back. The only true love potential is Jesus Christ. He is perfect. The unprecedented lover of people. If you or I decide to put our expectation in people, we should expect to be let down, disappointed, and discouraged time and time again. Grace would not be necessary if  perfection was possible for humanity. The human heart is fickle. We are not capable of perfect love outside the Lord.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-16) People are always part of our purpose and potential in the Lord. They do not impact one’s ability to achieve it. People are where we plant seeds of righteousness as the peacemakers who God has called us together to knit the Kingdom of God and Body of Christ. We must be willing to put all of our expectation in Jesus Christ who allows us to have a right relationship with God the Father. Our faith in Jesus allows us to live in right standing with God and become part of His Kingdom. Hope is what keeps us striving through this temporary life with all its momentary problems to live forever with Him. Love is worth fighting for. It builds the Kingdom. God sacrificed His Son for us. Jesus gave up everything to come for us. He gave up His Rights as King of Kings and Lord of Lords long enough to secure a place for us. People are the Kingdom. All people were created with Eternity in their heart. They are all worth fighting for. To love them as Jesus loves them.

To love God is to love others. To be godly is to love because God is love. The Word of God clearly states that no matter what I “do” for God including giving everything I have to the poor or sacrificing my body – if didn’t love others, I have gained nothing. No love. No faith. No love. No hope. Is love worth fighting for? Absolutely. What is love? Just a reminder – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is not only worth fighting for but the very thing that keeps the Kingdom intact.

I Timothy 6:11-14 (NLT) But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

But you, __________, are a man or woman of God. Run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for true faith. Hold tightly to eternal life which God has called you to. Declare it to many witnesses today. It’s time to reprioritize and refocus. Tear up the long to do list of human expectation and ask the Lord what do you have for me to do today. It will all come down to just three things – faith which is our purpose, hope that is our potential and the people who we are called to love. Life is simplified in Jesus Christ. Don’t let the enemy complicate it with unnecessary things. He is constantly trying to sow weeds in the garden of righteousness being sown in our life. He wants to crack our foundation of faith with fear and doubt. He fights to chain us and put us in bondage to other things so we cannot remain securely anchored to hope. The enemy of our soul seeks to destroy love on every level and some people make that a bit easier. Love them anyway. Put all your expectation in Jesus Christ and fight to keep it there. These are definitely the things (faith, hope and love) that are worth fighting to maintain in our everyday life. They define our purpose, release our potential and build the Kingdom. Well worth it!

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

 

 

The One

the-one

Luke 15:3-7 (NLT) So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

The phenomenon of the lost sock prevails in every household with a washer and dryer. Where do they go? What happens to them? Do washers eat socks? Actually sometimes they do! In some models during the spin cycle, socks can get caught up in the top around the basket and work their way down behind the drum. Do dryers consume them with hidden fire within so they vanish without a trace? You can buy six pairs of socks for about $8 or $9 at the local discount store. Why do we find it so irritating to lose a sock? Is it because now there is a perfectly good one without a mate? Is it the principle of ownership that causes indignation because it belongs to us so we want it back? Or could it be now there is one more task added to our long list of chores? Find the lost sock!

My husband and I are opposites. I do not stress over a lost sock. It is not a big deal to me. He is a details guy. The lost one drives him nuts until he finds it. A few years back our daughters started following the trend of mismatched socks. The clothing stores even sold an assorted pack of socks that did not match. My poor husband! It took a while for him to grasp the concept that they aren’t supposed to be the same. I am not so much of a worrier about socks because I know I can just go buy another pack when I hit the grocery store each week. It is the principle for my husband. It should be there. It belongs with the other sock. There is no reason that what goes in the hamper should not survive the washing and drying process and make it back to the drawer. It’s all about the one.

Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and teachers of religious law when he shared three parables in Chapter 15 of Luke including the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the Parable of the Lost Son. All three are very important to the basis of Christianity and the way I approach my life in Christ. However, I often forget that this whole life that I live is about the one. The one who is lost. The one who wanders in the dark. The one who is fallen. The one who keeps stumbling. The one who doesn’t get it despite numerous attempts. The one who doesn’t understand. The one who walks with me or falls behind. It is not about me. It is all about the one.

John 3:16-17 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) No one can make it to the Father except by Him. Who needs the Way, Truth and Life? Every single person who is born into this world and roams the planet has sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. (Romans 3:23) Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin” is death but that God has given us the free gift of eternal life. There goes our self-worth and pride. There is nothing that I can do to earn God’s Love or Salvation because Jesus did it all. He is the One we owe our life to so it is up to Him what He requires of us.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Are you ready? Get your pen and paper out. We are going to write the list of demands that Jesus places on our life. “Love each other…just as I have loved you.” Got it. What else, Lord? “You should love one each other.” I got it. Now what…”your love for one another will prove to the world you are my disciples.” Love one another. That’s it. What about all the religious rules and regulations? Nope. The long list of doctrinal do’s and don’ts? Nope. If we do not love one another, it really doesn’t matter what else we do for the Lord because it is not what He desires.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who has 100 sheep and one of them is lost. He leaves the 99 to find the lost one. The weak one. The vulnerable one. The rebellious one. The isolated one. He goes after them letting the others remain together and care for themselves. When he returns, he is not dragging the wayward one, scolding it along the way, punishing him for running off, threatening him for abandonment – the shepherd joyfully carries it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he calls everyone together to celebrate the lost one’s return. “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God over 99 others who are righteous and never strayed away.” My purpose in life is the one.

Luke 15:8-10 (NLT) “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Have we lost sight of our purpose? Maybe. There is a current shift in church culture reverting from mega church to small group. However, if the small group is a clique it still missing the point. Jesus mandated us to love each other, love one another, and to love others more than ourselves. The problem may not be our process but our perspective. Do we value those who are lost, wandering or fallen away? Do we consider those who leave our church, congregation, or small group collateral damage? Well, they were a problem. They had issues. They were just not a good fit. The list of excuses go on and on but the reason we do not go after the lost is because we do not see their worth.

If I have ten dollars and lose one of them, I will be disappointed and may spend some time looking for it. But eventually I will just chalk it up as a loss and move on. But if I have ten one hundred dollar bills and lose one, I may look a little longer, harder and even may tear up my house to find it. Let’s take this home. What if we are not talking about money but a child? We could have lost our son to cancer. In fact, many didn’t believe that he would live. I have five children – two sons and three daughters. If I lost my son, why would I be sad because I still have four other children including another son? Stupid huh? Of course, I would do anything to save my child even though there are many he is precious to me. Hello? Jesus died for the one. Why do we not value all others as much as ourselves? If my ministry does not revolve around the one, I can forget finding purpose in many.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT) “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’  “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

The father had two sons – a good one and a bad one. A rebel and a saint or that’s at least others may perceive them. The father loved his sons. While one obediently remained at home and responsible, the other ventured into the world and fell flat on his face. When he finally came to his senses (vs. 17) – he realized that the hired servants at home lived a better life than he was now living and so he returned. How was he welcomed? His Father was filled with love and compassion. Do we love the lost when they find their way home? Or do we judge them, try to change them or criticize them? The way I treat others is a direct reflection of my character in Christ. The way a church treats them is evidence of their motivation. To sit in climate controlled sanctuaries with padded seats and expensive projection systems so we know all the words is not enough. To gauge our success by the size of our roster and total membership on the books. To evaluate our life with Christ by any other standard is false pretense. It is all about the one. The lost one. The broken one. The fallen one. The one who can’t seem to get it right. The one who is lost. The one who rebels. Every single “one”. That is who we are accountable for. Those are who we must love. They are the ones of value and worth that causes all Heaven to rejoice. The ones who the church writes off, has forgotten and turned their back on. I am the church. If I do not love others with the same love, devotion and grace that Jesus has given me – I am not His Disciple. If I regard others as worthless, insignificant and not worth my time – I am more lost than they will ever be.

Romans 13:18 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Until the message I speak and the Gospel I preach is clothed in the Love of God and offered with the same grace that Christ has given me it is false teaching. I owe no one anything except I am under godly obligation to love them. Love one another. Love each other. Love them more than myself. If you are like me today, faces have flooded your mind as these words have been read. We give up on people too easy. We turn our backs when relationships become uncomfortable or messy. We look away from those who give their life to something less. Those very people who we are called to love yet choose to remain offended, unforgiving and bitter toward. If people interrupt your ministry, then it is not ministry at all. People are ministry. Every person ever created is the one who God desires and Jesus desires. Every one. They are the one.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT) Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

In Hebrews 10, people are encouraged to hold tight to the hope we affirm without wavering. God has promised us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot do anything to deserve it or earn it. I can live out the rest of my life according to this promise. Doubt causes us to think we must live to deserve God’s Love and Affection. Fear tells us that it can somehow be earned which is a lie, too. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ is not about preaching and teaching the Word of God. This is definitely a spiritual gift but not our ultimate calling or mandated lifestyle. I know a lot of people who can preach and teach but don’t know how to love like Christ commands. I don’t love like that all the time. We must think about it. We must learn to motivate each other to acts of love and good works. We cannot neglect meeting together. We must become encouragers of the body of Christ so we become bound together in harmony.

Since…God chose us. He already picked you as one now it is our turn to pick the next one and the next one as his disciples. To pull people together – all people. This is not picking teams. It is building a Kingdom. The Kingdom of God that rejoices over every single one. The governor of Florida cannot tell you the name of every person living in his jurisdiction. The mayor cannot tell you those who live in his city. To be honest, I only know the names of a few of my neighbors. Not only does God have the name of every member of His Kingdom, but can tell you the number of hairs on their head. We must clothe ourselves in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It is the soft garments worn under the armor of God each day. It is the attire of a heart in love with Jesus and committed to be His Disciple. We must learn to forgive. We must live above offense that builds walls around hearts. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Think about the one today. The one who you haven’t seen in a while. The one you wrote off. The one you gave up on. The one who tries your patience. The one who is the thorn in your flesh. The one who hurt you. The one you stopped praying for. The one who offended you. The one who is lost. The one who is wandering. The one who will show up in your church today. All the ones who are missing. That is the one you are called to love and bind together with in harmony. That one. Lord, let me always think of and go after the one.

I Thessalonians 3:12 (NLT) And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.

Puzzles

puzzles

Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.

On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.

“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.

When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.

No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”

I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.

I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?

The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?

Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.

The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.

Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!

Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

 

The Trial of My Patience

The Trial of My Patience

Colossians 3:12-14 (MSG)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

As long as I can remember going to church, I have heard NOT to pray for patience. To do so invites trials and tests in our life to develop endurance. Well, I have decided that I don’t need to pray for patience. As long as there are other people in this world, my patience will remain on trial. The Word of God says that as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17) If you think about the friction of the “sharpening” process of metal on metal, sparks are going to fly so even our personal relationships will fall into the realm of the trial of patience. We also read that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44) Even those who hurt our feelings, harm our hearts, or even go so far as to injure our bodies are to be eligible for the same forgiveness and love that the Lord has given us. Say, what? Can the Lord really expect this of human beings? Not only does he suggest it but requires it!

God picked us. He chose us despite our sinful condition. Every sin that I committed was like a nail straight through the heart of God as it took the life of His Son, Jesus. God had to stand by and watch while His Beloved, Sinless Son become a sacrifice for us. As a parent, I cannot imagine how that must have felt and pray for that I will never experience the loss of a child. Even though it was our wrongs, faults, failures and willful disobedience that murdered His Child, God took the opportunity to wrap us back up in His Love now that our sins were washed away in Christ’s Blood. Such love and forgiveness is incomprehensible and quite overwhelming, yet it gives perspective to the length and duration of the endurance suggested in the Word of God when it comes to our patience. Patience characteristic of God will be compassionate, kind, and humble with quiet strength and discipline. We must be even-tempered, not easily goaded, content with second place and quick to forgive an offense even if ongoing. When we forgive it must be like Jesus who did so quickly and completely. We are to wear our love for God and others – never going anywhere without it.

Why all this talk about people? I thought it was about patience. Friend, after four years of seemingly endless doctor’s appointments, procedures, pharmacy runs and caring for our son – I have learned to wait. Waiting requires patience. The pressure comes from the people who we wait with. Think about it. You may get upset that you have to wait but there is almost always a person exacerbating your agitation. Patience are the quality of Christ that extends our forgiveness and expands our love for other people.

James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

 

Pressure forces our faith-life out in the open for examination. The amount of pressure it takes for us to blow our top, get mad, yell or shout, or even throw in the towel and quite exemplifies the commitment in our heart to Jesus Christ. The race of faith is a marathon. It requires endurance. Giving up is not an option. You must endure to the end to be saved. (Matthew 10:22) The enemy is working overtime to get you to the end of your patience. He wants to make you give up. However, it is important to note that the enemy can only test you and try you if God allows. (Job 1:8-12) Why would God do such a thing? Because He has confidence in you! He knows the limits of our faith and that which is required to force us to grow under pressure. Without testing, we will never see the limitations in our life because it is human nature to avoid such instances and establish comfort. If we can learn to focus every human experience, encounter and expectation on God alone, we will begin to prevail. The problem is people.

I had a dream right after our son was healed from cancer the first time. In my dream, the enemy had taken our youngest daughter. He did not harm her. He did not even touch her. When we approached, my husband snatched her up and ran. I prayed in the Holy Spirit and threw the Word of God in the enemy’s face. His response was to immediately get in my face so close I could smell his acrid, burning breath and hiss – “If it wasn’t for the Blood of Jesus, I would kill you all!” What I did not really notice until now is throughout the entire dream, the enemy was transforming in and out of human form looking like a number of different people until he got mad enough to let me know his intent. I believe that is how it works in life. Far from Jesus, people look like our problem. But the closer we get to Jesus, the enemy is forced to reveal himself and manifest. It is in that moment we can love others in the realization that they are victims in the fight for life.

Spiritual maturity allows us to develop patience. It is our only hope in the trial of our patience to overcome. The Blood of Jesus allows us to have overwhelming victory in all things even those that are personal such as matters of the heart. There are many do’s and don’ts easily avoided in our commitment to Christ but those must include offense and grudging against one another. True patience are shown by our ability to love others even when they are unlovable. To remain in love with a world that is jumping on our very last nerve and still smiling. Those who commit their life to spiritual maturity and the development of patent endurance will not be deficient in any way.

Romans 15:3-6 (NLT)

 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If my expectation is in the Lord completely, what is left to expect from other people? Faith is putting all our trust and confidence in God and His Promises. I want all that God has for me. If I put my well-being in His Hands totally, I have nothing to want of another, Not my spouse, my children, my parents, my family, my friends – no one has a responsibility to make my life better but the Lord. I forget that sometimes. I want people to meet a need that should be surrendered to Jesus. I do not have a right to expect anything from other people because Christ expects nothing but love for me. Love should motivate our responses and reactions in life. Christ didn’t live to please himself…clearly. If we wait on God PATIENTLY, we will receive the promises reserved for those who choose to live in His Presence. He is our provider in life of everything we need, want and desire if our hearts are fixed on Him. This relieves the pressure of expectation from every other person in our life. God doesn’t anything of us that He does not give us.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

Patience is produced by the Holy Spirit. The Gifts of the Spirit are listed above. These are all things to expect from the Lord and not anyone else. But if you think about it in relation to our daily encounters, most of the time we look to others to meet that need. The trying of our patience will reveal every area of our life that is not producing spiritual fruit which gives us an opportunity to engraft this deficiency to Christ for new growth. Any of things obtained outside of the Love of God will not satisfy us so we will constantly feel the pressure and inclination to keep seeking and searching for that which is eternal. Yes, my patience are on trial. God wants more for me than I want for myself. He allowing me to be pressed to get rid of less and make room for more. Lord, increase my patience today. Fill me with more of Your Love.

Colossians 3:15-17 (MSG)

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

 

“Endings are better than beginnings, sticking to it is better than standing out.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8) Not many people choose the route of endurance, it’s not easy. In fact, it will take everything out of us to make it to the end. I found that in the fight for our son’s life giving up was not an option. I would not quit until he won or Jesus took him home. It would be a fight to the death. Giving up was never ever a consideration. When doors started closing and we began running out of treatments, I could do nothing but go back to Jesus and say, “You said that he would live and not die.” Trusting God was the only solution left. I share that because it is becoming clear to me that God wants me to apply that same commitment in every area of my life. To dispel the myth that giving up is ever an option when I have God’s Word on it. When patience is exhausted and my last nerve tapped, I must find a way to grab hold of Christ like I did back then and hold on for dear life. I have a point of reference. To hear the words remission for one year straight in a kid that no one thought would make it. That’s God! His Word is true. He is not just interested in the BIG THINGS but every single detail of my life has the potential for a supernatural ending or miraculous outcome. It will be worth every ounce of patience and the sacrifice of pride to see the Glory of God manifest in my whole life.

Psalm 37:3-9 (NLT)

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Simple Standard for Life

Simple Standard for Life

Micah 6:8 (TLB)

No, he has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with your God.

 

The Lord knows my heart today. He can see right through each of us into the very essence of our being. I am so thankful for Jesus today and the fact that even in the darkness that I am struggling to roust that God only sees the Face of His Precious Son. I would be a better Christian if people were not involved. There is adversity in the composition of humanity and its many personalities all on a voyage of their own converging together into one people. Yet again I am in that place of really wanting to follow the Lord and do what I know that He wants me to do while my flesh eats away at me. The enemy knows our greatest weakness and will always use it against us. It is that one thing that draws the line marks too far. That place that defines the end of our growth similar to the markings on the doorway of a home symbolizing the inches attained by the children. I am at that mark but I don’t want to fail on my quest for oneness with Jesus. I want to do what is right. What is that simple standard?

The simple standard of life is this – to be fair, just, merciful and to walk humbly with your God. I must be fair when treated unfairly. I must be just even though this world leans toward corruption and compromise. I must show mercy even when treated unfairly or unjustly. Even when I am right and the whole world is wrong, I must live covered in the Grace of God I have been given so that every word I speak must move through its force field and everything I touch bears its mark. But the most important of these in my opinion that lends support to all the others is this – to walk humbly with my God. The image is clear in my head. Walking with the Lord, holding His Hand with my head held low in submission. It is not a bad place but a journey of total dependency on the faithfulness, goodness, kindness and justice of the Lord to work in my favor just as He promised. This is the standard of life we are called to and must strive to maintain.

Proverbs 3:4-6 (TLB)

If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

The Living Bible (TLB) is a new translation for me but I really like it. If I want the Favor of God and with mankind along with a reputation for good judgment and common sense, trust the Lord completely. I have learned a valuable lesson in life over almost 50 years. I must always wait until my reaction becomes a response. The enemy pokes, prods and goads us with attacks on the weakest areas of our faith or those things that maybe we hold too close in our life. He takes that sore spot and works it until he gets us to that line. It is in that moment that we decide to choose the blessing of submission to the Lord by entrusting our current situation to Him or taking matters into our own hands. We must learn to see people’s hearts rather than hanging on their every world. We must learn to see past what they do to who they are and how much the Lord loves them. It is the plot of the enemy to remove believers from their life and steal their soul forever. I will not be a part of that or at least I am really trying even now.

In EVERYTHING you do, put God first. Just when you think you have, it seems that another area of self-control is exposed that we must fight the good fight of faith to overcome. I promise if I ever get past all my faults, failures, stubbornness and weakness – I may just become a good Christian. When we decide that God is first, it does not mean that we suddenly start throwing out scripture and conking people over the head with heavy Bibles. It is not a call to make everyone right and prove our point to the world. It is to walk humbly with our God high above offense. It is that moment when the heart of people become our highest priority rather than getting back at them. God is telling us what makes Him first but we want to do all these other things rather than clinging to Him and letting Him fight our battles and thus changing our heart, too. When God is first, we have no time for personal agendas. There is no questioning, judging, gossiping or attacking one another. Our heads are too low watching each footfall of Jesus to be concerned.

I John 4:16-19 (TLB)

We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him. And as we live with Christ, our love grows more perfect and complete; so we will not be ashamed and embarrassed at the Day of Judgment, but can face him with confidence and joy because he loves us and we love him too. We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.

The most important goal that I have in life is that when I meet the Lord that I will not be ashamed or embarrassed but accepted and embraced. To do so, I must full accept the Love of God as my own by faith and full confidence in the hope that I have been given. I cannot earn His Love or do anything at all to be worthy of it. It is mine. It is that simple. But walking in His Love is not always that simple. Again, people are involved. People are messy and unpredictable. We must remove our faith in people. We must take back our confidence from them. We can no longer place our expectation in the human race. But rather take all these things and put them in the Perfect and Complete Love of God for safekeeping. When we do not expect anything from people, we will not be disappointed but empowered to love everyone the same. This is a lifelong process. For I am just as human as everyone else is.

Proverbs 22:3-5 (TLB)

A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. True humility and respect for the Lord lead a man to riches, honor, and long life. The rebel walks a thorny, treacherous road; the man who values his soul will stay away.

 

I received a text message from one of my daughter’s the other day while I was at work. She and her sister were working on their chore list at home. The text read, “I am about to introduce her to the five-fold ministry.” For those of you who don’t know what she meant, she was about to execute swift just with her fist. I laughed and responded but was not alarmed in the slightest. I know that she loves her sister and was just venting her frustration looking for some parental intervention which was swiftly enacted. I believe that this is the same way the Lord empowers us in life. When faced with opposition, adversity or difficulties to make it a common practice to call on Him first. He will instruct us through the Holy Spirit how to act and send the Holy Spirit to deal with the situation. The angel told Daniel that the moment he prayed a command was released in Heaven. (Daniel 9:23) Daniel was a child of God just like you and I so we can expect the same response from the Lord when we pray for help in any given situation.

A prudent person stops and takes the time to pray when a problem arises rather than losing themselves in anger, rage, hurt or any other emotion that arises. I am trying so hard to work on my emotions so that they do not cause me to run down that “thorny and treacherous road.” Any time we do not follow Jesus and do what He instructs us to do, it is immediate rebellion. Yes, His Grace will cover it but it is sin nevertheless. I want wisdom to take over so I am not constantly picking out the brambles of rebellion and dealing with the consequences of my overloaded emotions that have managed to clutter my life with things other than what God has for me. True humility lead a person to riches, honor and long life. For those who choose to walk in Oneness with the Lord there is peace, joy and love. His Love is so complete that the Bible says it covers a multitude of sins. We need to cover each other even when we really would rather kill another. I am trying to keep in step with the Lord and live this simple standard. Today I needed the reminder “to be fair, just, merciful, and to walk humbly with (my) God.”

 

Philippians 2:5-11 (TLB)

Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Then the End Will Come

Then the End Will Come

Matthew 24:13-14 (MSG)

Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news—the Message of the kingdom—will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come.

 

A young lady who grew up with our daughter is getting married today. We have had the pleasure of watching her grow up. It seems like only yesterday it was prom pictures in princess dresses now today she will don her wedding gown. My daughter flew in to be part of her friend’s special day, so we stopped by a store that she was registered in to choose a gift together. Once inside the store, the gift quickly chosen, she bee lined for the shoe department while I went to choose a card. Greeting cards can be addicting reading each one looking for the perfect sentiment. There had to be hundreds of cards for this special day. I found one that said, “Finally!” and picked it up. The happy coupled dated for seven years becoming engaged two years ago. It seemed appropriate. Inside the card it read, “Always in love! Now it’s official.” The wheels in my head began turning and I looked at the cover with two bows ties on it and realized that this was not for them. My, oh my, how the world has changed.

My grandparents have been with the Lord for many years now, but I wonder what their thoughts would be if they returned for just one day to see how the world has changed in such a short time. The price of gasoline alone would probably send grandpa right back to Heaven. I wish I could say that they would find a place more in love with Jesus but that is not the case. It is clear that our nation is moving away from God and pushing Him out of the schools, courts, and the country. Being a Christian has become a shameful thing for many who hide it from the world practicing only in secret in their home and among comfortable congregations. Private business owners cannot express their values or they will be slapped with giant lawsuits and immediately shutdown. Those who discuss their faith at work risk dismissal. Even pastors cannot live by their convictions risking prosecution now. What do we do in a world that is quickly rejecting its foundational beliefs? What if one day being a Christian is a “hate crime”? Well friends, welcome to the end times.

Matthew 24:3-12 (MSG)

Jesus said, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming. They are going to throw you to the wolves and kill you, everyone hating you because you carry my name. And then, going from bad to worse, it will be dog-eat-dog, everyone at each other’s throat, everyone hating each other. In the confusion, lying preachers will come forward and deceive a lot of people. For many others, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in—nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes.”

Jesus told us that this would happen in His Conversation with his disciples on the Mount of Olives that day. Matthew 24:3-14 talks about the days we live in now. There are many people stepping forward saying, “I am Christ.” Oh you don’t think so, well Christ lives in people and there are a whole lot of folks claiming to be they “Way, Truth and Life.” Calling Christ what He is not. Nation is fighting nation. Check. Famines. Check. Earthquakes. Check. “Everyone hating you because you carry My Name.” Yes, check. “Everyone at each other’s throat. Everyone hating each other.” Just because you are not personally affected by tragedy, trauma or trouble does not lessen the reality. I am not even discuss lying preachers who teach one thing but live another. Finally, the overwhelming spread of evil. As a believer who really wants to live with a pure heart and mind, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to watch television, go to the movies, listen to the radio or engage with this world apart from the influence of evil and sinful behavior. It all boils down to this…love that has grown cold and ineffective. The Light of His Love is flickering as men and women are required to choose between loving God or living in this world. We are living in the end times. Just because you don’t like it, don’t want to talk about it, or choose not to believe it does not change the truth. We must be ready for this new season which will be the most difficult of all.

Matthew 22:18-22 (MSG)

Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Why are you trying to trap me? Do you have a coin? Let me see it.” They handed him a silver piece. “This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?” They said, “Caesar.”

“Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” The Pharisees were speechless. They went off shaking their heads.

When I read the card in the store, it took me by surprise. I know some people who would have put it back on the shelf put down all the other items that they intended on purchasing never donning the doors every again. I know others who would buy it as a celebration of love and acceptance in our community. Then there are those who just put it back and pick the one the one they want and go about their business. I have prayed about it and thought a lot about such details in my life. I choose not to post on my social media accounts about such things because the argument does not benefit the relationships I have. As I studied this morning, I felt the Holy Spirit drop this passage in my spirit. This is what I see – the current of Christianity is not changed in the courtroom or church – it is a change in our culture that happens in everyday lives.

Matthew 22:37-40 (MSG)

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

 

It all comes down to these two things – first we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all of our body. Second, we must love others as we do ourselves. There are some who believe they are doing others a favor by pointing out the sin in their life. But consider this, why do you think they are fighting so hard to justify choices in their life? Why is sin so heavily promoted and upheld by others? They know what’s wrong – they just don’t know how to fix it! On the other hand, Christians look at sin on different levels when God does not. If you don’t sin, feel free to go throw the Book at others but if you are like me who heavily relies on the Grace of God and His Unconditional Love then we have too much going on in our own life to judge another person. Besides that is not what we have been instructed by Jesus Christ to do.

When love becomes our passion, the world may not change but people in it will.

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I love you must take on new meaning if you want to see people fall in love with Jesus. We must become more lovable. I did not say complacent about sin or compliant with culture but we must learn to be so secure in the Love of God that we can love those who don’t love us back rather than fighting for truth and justice. It is not our battle. It belongs to the Lord. It is driven by a force much greater than I. But the One who lives in me is greater than even he is. Jesus lives inside of me. I am an overcomer. I do not have to fight to secure my position but live for righteousness sake. The more I study the more I pray the closer I get to Jesus the less I deserve Him. The more humbled I am that He loves me for me even though I know all the rotten things that I have done but He still said, “Yes!” To stand for the Lord is a confident position built on faith, hope and love. These are not aggressive or combative terms but of total trust and dependency on God.

I have a very close friend who I consider one of my very best friends. She does not believe in God. She adamantly refuses to go to church. When I first met her – she and her partner were not married and did not feel like they needed to be. She told me her beliefs early on in our relationship and I shared mine. She walked through the horrible time we had with our son’s illness. She is dependable, loving and giving above and beyond. In many ways, she is more of a believer than some that I know. She just refuses to call on God. Now I could have argued religion or even tried to cram Jesus down her throat and our relationship never would have grown to the level it is now. We had lunch together as co-workers every day. One day she looked at me out of the blue and said that I was the only Christian in her life that she could tolerate and even like. How sad is that? She has many relatives who are “Christians” and judged her for the last ten years never really getting to know her but based on the fact that she is a single mom living with her partner who clearly needed Jesus. Newsflash! WE ALL NEED JESUS every single day in every single moment. Well, we have been friends for more than four years now. She and her partner just got married! How exciting! I asked, “Why?” She couldn’t tell me just that they felt it in their hearts. It is all about our heart. God looks at our heart. God can turn someone’s heart around in an instant. He does it by putting us in place to love them. No matter where they come from, who they are, how they live, or even what they look like. Love changes our culture from within.

We cannot let our fear motivate us to fight the world because we are scared of failure. The world is passing away and there is nothing we can do to change that. A lack of confident hope and weak faith makes people try to save the world rather than focusing on enduring until the end. They don’t want this life to end because they are uncertain of what is to come. Read the end of the Book. We must live so desperately dependent on God’s Love that it spills forth into the world capturing the hearts of as many broken people who just like us need Him more and more.

Colossians 2:6-10 (MSG)

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well-constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Love. Love is the answer. Real love. True love. Jesus kind of love. God is love. If we do not find a way to become conduits of His Unfailing Love and Overflowing Grace our family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers and yes even our enemies are going to die without knowing Jesus. It is easier to fight for what we think is right than to humbly accept all that Christ is to satisfy our heart and mind so we put our expectation in Jesus rather than the world we live in and people we associate with. Don’t let this world drag you off into endless arguments. We don’t know the whole story but we know how it ends. Those who make it to the end will be saved. We must become desperately in love with others as Christ desperately loves us so much that we are willing to lay down our life, pride and need to be right to love them more. We know the Truth.

Everything I need is found in Jesus Christ. My life must be rooted and ground in faith anchored by hope in the Power of His Love to change the hearts of others. We must think about our interactions and decide the point of these conversations. Jesus said it ought to be about love. We decide from there…

Micah 6:8 (MSG)

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.