Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WHEN PERCEPTION MEETS REALITY - WHO WINS?

 
  I am amazed when I read about how clueless the first followers of Christ were! How could they, the 12 disciples miss the point so often?  Their perception did not often match reality. Then I think about it a little more and realize I am no better.  

What happens when what I think the Bible teaches conflicts with what the Bible actually teaches?  Like most people, I may simply pass over the parts that contradict my theology without even thinking about them.   Even the disciples ignored the parts they did not understand according to their theology.

    In Matthew 20, Jesus very clearly explains to the Disciples, as they traveled to Jerusalem for the last time, how He is about to die: Matthew 20:17  And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them,   "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
I do not think Jesus could have made this any clearer.  Minutes later, completely ignoring everything Jesus just said, James and John apply for the jobs of sitting at Christ's right and left side in the Kingdom!  Imagine this scene, "I am about to go die for the sins of the world."  "yeah, yeah, ok, whatever, oh by the way, can we have the top positions when you set up the Kingdom?"  

     How can this happen?  The worst trap we can fall into when studying the Bible is thinking we know what it will say before it says it.  The disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah, but they also believed the Messiah had come to establish the Kingdom, period.  When Jesus spoke about dying and going away, it did not match their theology.  Rather than adjusting their theology, the disciples ignored the parts they did not understand or which conflicted with their belief system.

     I have a friend who is a skeptic.  His biggest beef with Christianity is how so many different groups of "Christians" interpret the Bible so many different ways.  I explained to him, the Bible is pretty self explanatory and pretty simple to understand if taken literally. The problem is, people choose to make the Bible fit their beliefs rather than making their beliefs fit the Bible.  Another problem, which is a topic for another blog, is many false teachers count on the Biblical ignorance of their audience in order to exercise control by twisting scripture.  

     Mostly, we hold a false belief because we were taught it, either in a Sunday School class or from the pulpit.  Some false doctrine is hundreds of years old and lingers because the source is so well respected, no on thinks to question.  

Here is a small example, most people in my generation imagine the Baptism of Christ like this: Jesus walks up to where John is Baptizing, John says "behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" then John, after a brief discussion, baptizes Jesus. Guess what, John did not say the whole "behold the Lamb of God" thing until over 40 days after Jesus was baptized.  How did we get this confused?  Every year, around Resurrection Sunday, the Greatest Story Ever Told aired on television and depicted these two events as one.  

    Yes, this is a very minor thing, but it causes you to question what else you may be holding falsely.  What else may we have been taught wrong and just ran with.  The Bible is not some puzzle that needs to be deciphered.  

   Past all my rambling, my point is we have to read the Bible at face value.  Lay aside your preconceived ideas and let the Bible teach you.  If you come to a difficult passage, ask questions.  If you know someone with the gift of teaching, that person lives for tough Bible questions!  Usually, you will find the answer in another part of scripture as the Bible teaches the Bible.  

    The Bible is God's direct message to you. If your true love wrote you a letter, would you trust someone else to keep that letter and tell you what it said? Of course not!  You would want to read it for yourself and probably re read it over and over.  Sermons and books are good, but these should compliment your own personal study, not replace it.  God actually tells us to learn His Word for ourselves: 2Timothy 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Friday, February 9, 2018

EVANGELISM - YES ME!

     
 I love evangelism!  True evangelism, evangelism that takes place naturally.  I hate evangelism as most people understand it.  Many of us have been taught evangelism is walking up to strangers and asking if they know Jesus. I would rather eat a bug!  Think of any other scenario in which this would be appropriate.  "Hello sir, ah, I was uh wondering if you, uh, like vanilla ice cream?"  

    The funniest Super Bowl advertisement this year, in my opinion, was when the red M&M turned into Danny Devito and he ran up to strangers asking if they wanted to eat him.  The shear ridiculousness of this scenario made it hilarious. 

Why is it any less ridiculous for us to walk up to a complete stranger and ask such a personal question about their faith?  Is it never ok to engage a stranger about matters of faith?  Of course we need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  There may be times when we are prompted to do this, such as Phillip with the Ethiopian eunuch.  

Mostly, evangelism needs to happen naturally through established relationship.  This does not mean we have to wait weeks, months or years, a relationship can be established in a matter of minutes, under the right circumstances.

   Jesus met needs, establishing trust and opening the door to conversation.  Jesus did not meet needs in order to fulfill some quota of conversions, He met needs because He loved. Jesus met perceived needs so He could get to the real need, the often hidden or unrecognized need, freedom from the wages of sin. 

     Evangelism must be born out of love for God and others, empowered by the Holy Spirit and sincere.  If it is forced or canned everyone will be uncomfortable.  Look for opportunities to share love by meeting the needs of others, follow the leading of the Spirit of God and share your faith by your lifestyle first and words later.

     Nothing is more satisfying than seeing God transform a life and getting to be part of that!

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

EVANGELISM - WHAT... ME?

   Ok, today's challenge, should you choose to accept it, go out and evangelize at least 2 people - ready, set... GO!

     If you are like most people, just reading that challenge causes you to seize up inside.  I, Like most people, am not a natural evangelist.  To me, "going out to share the Gospel" seems insincere and forced.  That is not who I am and it does not come naturally.  Thankfully, true evangelism is more about lifestyle than it is about knocking on doors, handing out tracts or inviting people to pray the sinners prayer.  Evangelism, in it's purest sense, is sharing something you are passionate about.

    If you wear an Iron Maiden t-shirt, you are evangelizing for Iron Maiden.  If you are a collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia and you have Coke slogans around your house, you are evangelizing for Coke. True evangelism is naturally promoting something.  It really is that simple.  If you saw a good movie and told a friend, "Hey, you really gotta see this movie!" you've evangelized.  Evangelizing the Gospel needs to be just as natural.

     I  think the problem for most people is evangelism has been program-ised by the church.  We give training classes and then go out and cold call people to practice what we have learned.  This is not necessarily bad, but it places evangelism in a category of an event rather than a natural part of everyday faith.  We can have evangelistic events, just as we have prayer events and worship events, but, evangelism, like prayer and worship, should be a regular part of a believer's life.

     True evangelism is simply living your life for Christ and demonstrating the love of God.  You do not need to be a Bible scholar, you do not need to be persuasive or pushy.  An anonymous quote often mis-attributed to Francis of Assisi says, "Preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words."  Our very lifestyle should testify to our faith. 

     Successful evangelism is not about how many people you get to repeat a prayer.  Successful evangelism is any time you obediently share your faith in word or deed. Jesus said, Matthew 5:16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Jesus did not say, "walk up to strangers and ask them if they are going to heaven."  

      Yes, at some point, evangelism will require words.  If you are naturally passionate about your relationship with Christ and you are living in a manner pleasing to Him by serving others in your gifting, natural opportunities to share your faith will present themselves.  No different than discussing your favorite menu items at a popular restaurant. True evangelism is often about relationship building.  True evangelism is really a component of disciple making, something we have all been commanded to do.  

     Yes, there are those who have a gift of evangelism.  A person with this gift seems able to turn every conversation toward Christ and every chance encounter becomes an opportunity.  Not everyone has this gift, in fact, most people do not.  In Romans 12, we find a list of gifts God gives each believer.  Romans 12:4-8  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,   so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching  the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 

In Ephesians, we find a list of distinct roles: Ephesians 4:11  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 

We are called to serve God according to our gifting and to evangelize the same way.  Do not be discouraged because you feel inadequate to share your faith according to our flawed understanding of evangelism.  Know that your life is a living testimony and the more you operate in the manner for which you were designed, the more natural evangelism will take place in your life. 

 I will continue on this topic in my next post, next week, hopefully. 

Until then -  Go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

AGREEING ISN'T ALWAYS BELIEVING

   
 Do your beliefs govern your behavior?  Actually, yes, belief absolutely governs behavior.  In fact, if your behavior does not line up with what you claim to believe, you probably do not believe what you think you believe.  You may agree with what you claim to believe, meaning you give mental ascent, but if you do not behave according to what you agree with, you do not really believe it.  

Proverbs 4:23  Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 

      I agree that a sword is a fine weapon.  Millions, perhaps even billions, have perished at the edge of a sword.  I do not, however, believe a sword is a fine weapon for me.  If I did, I would be an expert swordsman.  I like swords, I own swords and I know about swords, but I am no swordsman.  I could bluff around other non-swordsmen, but if I ever came across a real swordsman, I would last all of about 30 seconds.  I have just enough experience with a sword to be dangerous to myself.

     The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.  If you are reading this, you probably agree the Bible is the Word of God.  You probably agree the Bible holds truth.  You probably agree it is good to read and learn the Bible.  Whether you actually believe these things, however, is demonstrated by your behavior.  You may agree the Bible is a fine book, you may like the Bible, you may own Bibles, you may know some things about the Bible, but do you read the Bible?  If you truly believed the Bible was important and relevant to you, you would read it.  

     I bet you agree if you stood in front of a speeding train, you would be killed.  I also bet I could not convince you to stand in front of a speeding train, no matter how persuasive my argument might be.  Why would no one convince you to stand in front of a speeding train?  No one could convince you because you believe a speeding train would kill you.  Your belief in the power of the speeding train not only governs your behavior, it also holds up against argument to the contrary.  You know in your core a speeding train would kill you.  You have never been killed by a speeding train, you have probably never seen someone killed by a speeding train.  You have no experiential evidence a speeding train would kill you, yet you believe it in your heart of hearts.  

     The challenge for the Church is to get what we agree is true in our minds to travel down 12 inches to our hearts.  What you truly believe in your heart will drive your life.  Proverbs 23:7 tells us "as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is"  

     Take a spiritual inventory, ask God to search your heart and reveal inconsistency.  The Psalmist was brave enough to confront his own heart and even asked God to search it on his behalf: Psalm  139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

     Do you really believe or simply agree that God is good?  Do you really believe or simply agree that the Bible is the handbook for life?  Do you live like someone who believes Jesus could return any moment or do you simply agree that Jesus is coming back someday?  Your life bears witness to your faith, this is why James told us in his epistle, "Faith without works is dead."  Works do not create faith, works reveal faith. What do your works reveal about your faith?  If a stranger spent the week with you, would they know you were a follower of Jesus Christ?  

       God loves you and wants to bless you in your service to Him.  Believe He is good and know in your heart He is trustworthy and His ways are the way of life.  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!
     

Friday, January 19, 2018

PURSUE EXCELLENCE? BUT, I'M ONLY MADE OF DUST


Psalm 103:13-14  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 
      Do not expect too much from me, I am only made of dust.  God understands this about me, so as long as everyone else gets this, my bar is set pretty low and I can pretty much put forth 100% of the bare minimum and everything is good... right?   Well, maybe not.  You see, I am also indwelt by the Spirit of God and there is that verse that says something about my weakness is His strength or something like that. 

The truth is, there are numerous passages in scripture that speak about pursuing excellence. The Apostle Paul charges us with this little nugget: 1Timothy 6:12  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Or how about this one: Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." I could probably list 100 others just like this.

     It seems we have a dichotomous situation, on the one hand, we are called to be courageous and fight the good fight, on the other hand we are told God is compassionate with our failure because He knows our frame. How does this work? 

     As believers in Christ, we are called to pursue excellence. 

     Here is where the opening passage comes into play:                    2 Corinthians 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

   God gives us life and He gives us purpose.  Whatever purpose God sets before us must be pursued wholeheartedly.  If you hate your situation and give minimal effort, God has no reason to bless you with a better situation - Luke 16:10  "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

In Genesis we see the story of Joseph. Sold by his brothers, enslaved, and jailed on false accusations.  If anyone had an excuse for exerting minimal effort in life, it was Joseph.  Instead, Joseph pursued excellence and rose to the top of every situation he found himself, going from prisoner to second in command of the most powerful country on earth, at the time!  Joseph's commitment to excellence affects your life today, believe it or not.  Because Joseph pursued excellence in his life, the family from whom the Messiah would one day come was saved from starvation.

     Joseph did not wallow in self pity or focus on what he could not do, he utilized the strength found in his faith and accomplished the impossible.  As believers, we have something Joseph did not have, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We are empowered by the very Spirit of God and yet, sometimes we are satisfied with mediocrity.  

    If only I had more money, I could... your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

    If only I had more influence, I could... if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you could move mountains.

    If only I were smarter, I could... Jesus said, "what you are to say will be given you."

   The key to unlocking all this is Matthew 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 

If we are truly pursing God's Kingdom, we will naturally pursue excellence.  This covers every aspect of life, not just ministry. Family, work, school, personal relationships, you name it.  1Corinthians 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. This is the truth and the truth don't lie!  

Stop accepting mediocrity, pursue excellence, and find your strength in Christ.

Now go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!




Thursday, January 11, 2018

SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP - JESUS STYLE!

John 13:4-5  rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

     For me, this is the picture of true leadership!

   Jesus, the King of kings, wore the mantle of leadership, yet, instead of wearing it as a robe of nobility He wore it around His waist, taking on the role of the lowest of servants. 

    In Christ's time, foot washing was common, everyone wore sandals and everyone walked everywhere.  Feet got filthy, so, a common custom was to wash the feet of dinner guests.  What was not common, what was actually unheard of, was the dinner host washing his guests feet.  Foot washing was the job of a slave. In fact, not just any slave could perform this chore, only a non-Jewish slave was assigned this task.  Non-Jews, Gentiles, were already regarded as dogs, so a Gentile slave was considered lower than a dog.  

     Jesus, just hours before being arrested, tried and beaten, lowered Himself to the point of the lowliest servant in the culture.  Jesus did this to demonstrate true spiritual leadership.    

      Webster's defines mantle as: A figurative cloak symbolizing authority.  Jesus shows us how to exercise that authority.  

     Not everyone is a leader in the typical sense of the word, yet everyone of us has a role in the Body of Christ.  Everyone of us is entrusted with a specific role and gifted, supernaturally, to fulfill that role. God has granted each of us a mantle of authority over something.  Many never take on that mantle and many others misuse the mantle of authority to benefit themselves.  True leadership authority recognizes others as the secondary motivation, secondary only to bringing glory to God.  

    "This (Ministry) would be great if it weren't for the people!"  These were the saddest words I have ever heard uttered from a pastor.  No ministry is so important that the people are not a primary focus.  If people are getting in the way of achieving your vision, you probably have the wrong vision.  Spiritual leadership serves people.  Spiritual leadership is wearing the mantle of authority around your waist and daring to stoop to the lowest position in order to lead others by example.  

      If you are part of a ministry or if you are serving with someone who views others as his servant and behaves like a king rather than a servant, run, don't walk, away from that ministry!  The very word minister comes to us from Latin and literally means less servant. Imagine that!  Today, the word minister carries an air of elevated authority.  Can this be because the office of minister has been misused by many for personal benefit?  


      Servant leadership, true spiritual leadership, is recognizing our role as ministers is to serve others, not be served.  Philippians 2:3 -   Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 

       Imagine if many of the peacocks we see in pulpits today were held to this standard!  This is not a new phenomenon, the religious leaders in Christ's time were just as bad, and He called them out on it.  Be a spiritual leader by serving others and watch God change the world around you!  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!
     

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

BUT...THAT'S HOW I'VE ALWAYS DONE IT!


Here we are, just a few days into the new year and already you can hear the shattering sound of broken New Years Resolutions.  Not you or me though, we're different, this year we are going to make some changes!  We will be thinner, healthier, make more money, spend more time in spiritual pursuits and read more books.  What's the plan you ask?  We don't need no stinking plan!  We're just going to do it!!  Yeah... that's what happened.
   

      It often amazes me how often people express dissatisfaction with the status quo yet are unwilling to do anything differently to make even simple changes.  We are caught up in traditions and methods because, well we may not even know why.  

Scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage with a staircase and a banana hanging on a string above the staircase.  Every time a monkey went up the stairs to get the banana, the other 4 were sprayed down with icy water. The monkeys did not like being sprayed down with icy water.  It did not take long for the monkeys to realize the cause of the icy water was someone going up the stairs.  Once the monkeys realized this, they would attack any monkey who went up the stairs. Soon the monkeys avoided the stairs and everyone got along.  After a few days, one monkey was replaced.  When the new monkey went up the stairs, the 4 veteran monkeys attacked him and prevented him from going up, even though the scientists did not spray the monkeys with water.  One by one the monkeys were replaced over the course of days and weeks.  Eventually 5 monkeys who had never been sprayed with water guarded the stairs, never allowing any other monkey to go up. 

 5 monkeys who will never go up a staircase to get a banana nor will they ever allow another monkey to go up a staircase to get a banana because that's just the way it's always been.  Are we any better than those monkeys when it comes to making changes in our lives?  Are we caught in useless traditions and methods that may have had a purpose at some time in the distant past because, "that's how I've always done it"?  Are we failing to reach goals because we are failing to plan, to take chances, to step outside of "normal"?

    I am not talking about Biblical truth, that never changes and this is not a call to conform Biblical standards to cultural norms.  What I am saying is we need to look at our methodology.  If we do not make changes, nothing can change. 

     If you are a goal setter or a resolution maker, how many of last years goals or resolutions did you actually accomplish in the past year?  What did you do differently to achieve those goals?  Our approach to frustration with the status quo cannot be doing everything the way we have always done it.  

    This also translates to the church. If the church is called to affect the culture, yet the culture seems to have infected the church, what are we willing to do differently in practice?  We have to be able to calibrate our methods without compromising holiness.  

I know why I am not losing weight, I know why I am not healthier this year than I was last year, I know why I failed to meet my reading goal from last year and I know why I am dissatisfied with my spiritual life.  It is because I did not make the necessary changes, take the necessary risks or get over my, "but... that's how I've always done it attitude."  I also know that the church will continue to descend into irrelevancy in our culture if we do not make some changes and take some risks.  

    Don't be like a monkey who protects a staircase because that is how it's always been done.  Learn why we do things, evaluate what we do on it's merits and make the necessary changes to see the necessary changes.  Do not continue to punch yourself in the head and wonder why you have an headache.  Pursue God, get His plan and change your world!

Now, go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!

Friday, December 29, 2017

DON'T JUST GO TO CHURCH - BE THE CHURCH!

   Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 

    We have all heard the tired joke about what kind of car Jesus drove based on the verse above.  There is wisdom in never repeating a joke that is not funny, so, I spare you.  What I would like to point out however, is why the above passage is as important as ever to a church that has divided itself up by denominational, racial and economic lines.  

     Would it surprise you to learn 87% of American churches are completely segregated by race?   Denominationalism goes without saying as the Baptists would never deign to worship with the Methodists.  Catholics and Protestants still distrust one another over 500 years later. Yes, doctrinal differences come into play, but if we are all reading from the same Bible and are all indwelt by the same Spirit, should we not be able to sit down and come to doctrinal truth.  (Oh yeah, I forgot, it's more important for many of us to be right than correct...) And let's not forget the economic divide of the church: wealthy people have their congregations, the poor have theirs and the middle class have theirs.  

     Every bit of this is condemned by scripture!  Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

1Corinthians 3:4-7  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?  What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 



Acts 4:32  Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 

According to scripture we are no to have a distinction based on heritage, we are not to divide up into denominations and we are not to have an imbalance of wealth.  

According to scripture, the American church is a fundamental failure.  No wonder we lost the culture war!  Today's church is far more influenced by the world than any influence the church thinks it may have.  The Biblical mandate: "Be ye in the world but not of the world" seems to not apply to the modern church.  

What can we do?  REPENT REPENT REPENT!! Unless we recognize our sin, unless we get rid of false prophets and ear tickling preachers, unless we expel from leadership all those who are there to benefit themselves we will never see the church fulfill it's scriptural mandate of being salt and light.  

There are some individuals and congregations doing this the right way, unfortunately, these are few and far between.  So many congregations have become exclusive clubs concerned with status quo and growth from those leaving other ministries rather than growth through evangelism. If you are part of a congregation, when was the last time an unchurched person was baptized or even welcomed into the fold?  When was the last time a new member had never been a member somewhere else?

Ministry has become business and business stinks!  Until we are ready to be the church rather than go to church, revival will elude us.  Examine your heart and see if you are actively pursuing God's will for your life or are you merely going to church and indulging in the culture with little or no conflict. 

Revival begins with individuals who are ready to submit wholly to God and not be dictated to by traditions or culture.  The early church was united under the cause of Christ and Him crucified.  The early church members saw the Great Commission as a mandate from God and took it seriously.  Nothing we have and nothing we indulge is worth someone going to hell.  Do not merely go to church, be the church!

Now, go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

GOD'S LOVE GIVES US VALUE

   
 
What does it mean to love God's way?  Understanding love is not that difficult... or is it?  Children understand love to the degree they respond positively to love and express love to others.  If children understand love, how hard could it be, right?  Unfortunately, many of us have a warped sense of love.  Selfishly, we want, even demand, love be reciprocated.  In order to gain love from others, many place themselves in dangerous or degrading situations.  Often we love those who give us some value in return.


     As God is the author of love, He should be the one to define it.  Loving others as God intended requires nothing in return.  Loving others as God intended transcends circumstances and reciprocation.  Loving others as God intended means imparting value to the object of His love, not expecting some value in return.  

     It is easy for me to love someone whom I believe adds value to my life.  What happens, though, when that value is diminished?  What happens when my emotional investment is not returned?  What happens when love feels more like work than fun?   

   Marriages, personal relationships, and ministries collapse because we do not fully understand the true sacrificial nature of love.  Remember the Greatest Commandment - love God, love others. There is no addendum added stating: "as long as everything is cool." 

      The book of 1 John is a crash course true love.  It is in 1 John we learn love is way beyond feeling and conditions.  True love must be unconditional and selfless.  Once we place a condition on love, it becomes self serving and is no longer true love.  

    Unconditional love is truly liberating as we can begin to love those whom we deem difficult and unlovely.  This goes back to the whole loving only those who bring value thing.  God loves me yet I bring Him no value.  I have nothing to offer, I have nothing God needs, yet His love for me gives me value.

   There are so many broken people who lack self value, who have been written off as worthless, yet God loves them and His love brings them value.  How will someone know God loves them?  When one of His representatives (you and me!) show love.  

      I can tell you about a beautiful painting all day long, but unless I actually show you the painting, you can not fully grasp the beauty.  That is how love works, we cannot merely tell people God loves them, it is imperative we show them.   

    Loving others God's way imparts value to the object of His love.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

     Jesus said, "By this, they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."  So lets get busy doing what Jesus told us to do.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MY "I CANT" IS GOD'S "I WILL" - A LESSON FROM THE BEATUTUDES


The men's Sunday School group I attend has been studying through the Beatitudes, also known as Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5-7.   We have studied about a third of the way through and have come to the realization: NO ONE COULD ACTUALLY DO ALL THIS!  So, why would Jesus tell us all this stuff to do and not to do, when He knew we could never do it?         


     Actually, Scripture is filled with commands and rules that God gave us knowing we could never obey completely.  Now, I know that many are reading this and thinking about some of the Beatitudinal sayings you have memorized and some may actually be thinking: "I do a pretty good job living by the teachings of Jesus."  Well before you get too excited, allow me to draw your attention to: Matthew 5:48  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Ok, now that we are on the same page, lets see why Jesus would give out a sermon filled with commands that could not be kept?
   
     If you study Matthew, you see 3 major sections:

 1. Jesus offers the Kingdom

 2. The leaders of Israel reject the Kingdom on behalf of the people
      For more on Representative Theocracy CLICK HERE 

 3. Jesus begins to speak of His death and His other sheep                     (Gentiles)
                                         

      I submit to you that Jesus offered the Kingdom in good faith knowing it would be rejected so He could go to the cross, which was always the Plan. I also submit to you that Jesus revealed to us God's impossibly high standards of living in the Kingdom so we would realize our need for His grace.

This give us hope today, when we face difficult or even impossible circumstances.  We do not have the resources, the power, or the wisdom required to do all God allows in our lives, He does, however.  The Beatitudes then serve as a reminder to us of what Jesus once told His disciples: "What is impossible with man is possible with God."

      So, if it is impossible for me to be perfect as God is perfect, I must rely on Jesus' perfection to give me good standing with God.  Likewise, when I face other impossible situation, I must rely on Jesus' promises and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me.  This does not mean everything will always go my way because I am still human and my ways are not always God's ways, but it does mean I will always have all the resources I need to get through every situation in a way that will bring Glory to God, so long as I trust Him. My "I Can't" is God's "I will." 

     Knowing God is able to overcome our impossibles, what can we not face standing with God?  In light of this, go in faith, trust God for the impossible, rely on Him for provision and stand firm in His promises.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!