buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

For This Reason

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:10-12

As noted in my last blog posting, we are reading through Paul’s letters to the Churches. These letters were said to have been written while Paul was in prison. To set up the context of these letters, the study book we use gave us the background in the Book of Acts. We find a turning point in Paul’s ministry in Acts 20:22-24: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Paul said goodbye to his people; first in Ephesus then others along the way until he reached Jerusalem. He was arrested soon after arriving in Jerusalem and taken before officials. Every time he was given the opportunity, Paul told his testimony about how Jesus changed his life and how Jesus is the Messiah -foretold by the Prophets of Old -the One who was to come to bring salvation and redeem and restore the world to God. He never changed his message, just the way he presented it to his audience.

So then we come to the letters he wrote from his prison cell or in house arrest. His time was not wasted. He was on mission and never let an opportunity go by. Some of the letters were to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ whom he never met. He wrote to them to encourage their faith and give them examples to live by. He encouraged them to live differently than the world. It was the difference that would draw others to Jesus.

In Colossians 1:4, Paul wrote he had heard of the faith and love found in the believers in Colossi. For this reason, he prayed for them the prayer I listed above. It’s a powerful prayer; praying for knowledge and wisdom so that they could live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. Prayer is essential to living a life worthy of the calling. We also need to be watchful and thankful as we pray. Watchful so that we see God’s answer and give Him the glory. Thankful because we know what we ask for will be done, if we ask in His will – it’s just a matter of time – God’s time. I am reminded to thank Him before I see the answer.

In Ephesians, Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus he never stopped giving thanks for them and remembering them in his prayers (1:15). Paul prayed that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.Paul prayed for those who were to hear his letters would know Jesus better, to know the hope to which Jesus called each of the believers; to know the power that raised Jesus from the dead – power that lives in each believer by the Spirit of God who dwells in believers. Paul asked all this for all believers – not just to the ones who initially read or heard his letter, but to all those who read it today.

Think about the power of prayer – there is no end date. Paul has given us words to pray for one another, but also knowing God still honors Paul’s prayers 2000 years later. I asked the Lord: please answer this prayer in this present age so that we would know, by the Spirit, wisdom and revelation for God’s glory to be evident in all believers to draw others to Himself.

Wouldn’t it be a better world if the Church would have the power, which is available to us, used for God’s glory to be revealed? To know the power – to give us strength, to know the depth of His love, to know the work He is doing in us and through us? If we were all mature believers, unified in one body, wouldn’t that be a wonderful picture? It calls for a different approach than what the world puts forth. It calls us to live a life set apart and different – it calls for humility, gentleness, bearing with one another in love and living with one focus. It means being something we’re currently not.

For this reason, we start with Paul’s prayers for believers to encourage one another. Paul was warned repeatedly about the suffering he would experience as his end drew near. I think the Church as well has been warned repeatedly. It’s time we heed the warning and stay focused on the main thing. From Ephesians 4:4-6: 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. Let God’s glory be evident in each of us to draw more to the love of Jesus. It’s our only hope in times of trouble. It’s the only way to change the world we live in today. God help us!

Keep the Focus

Have you ever driven down the road and noticed the orange signs warning of a lane closure? The road crews put up the signs well in advance of the closure. The signs are nice warning of what’s ahead so drivers can get over in time before they encounter the cones. On occasion though, I have seen the signs but never encountered lane closure. I guess that’s why when I see the signs; I choose to stay in the lane even though I know eventually I might have to get over into another lane. Others will get into the next lane when they first see the signs. I wait and I watch.

Reading through the New Testament in our discipleship group, we came to a section in Acts that has caused me to think of those road signs. Toward the end of the Book of Acts, Paul has his sight on Jerusalem. He was compelled by the Spirit to go (Acts 20:22). In the next verse, the author Luke wrote Paul didn’t know what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem but in every city the Holy Spirit had warned Paul prison and hardships were facing him (Acts 20:23).

As Paul was making his way to Jerusalem and visiting the churches he established along the way, through the Spirit the disciples urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. A prophet Agabus took Paul’s belt and tied his own hands and feet with it and said “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11).

First off, didn’t the Spirit urge Paul to go to Jerusalem? Second, then why did the Spirit urge the disciples to stop Paul from going? A little bit perplexing to say the least. If I had been Paul, would I have stayed the course and gone to Jerusalem? I think I would have doubted I heard the Spirit correctly.

But Paul had a different relationship with the Spirit – he actually trusted the Spirit to guide him in his daily walk. Paul knew God would provide even if he was bound and in prison. Paul’s whole focus was summed up in this one verse in Acts 20:24: However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

Paul kept his focus even to the very end, even in prison – when he wrote his letters to the churches; even when he was in front of officials, rulers and kings – where he testified about the transformation from chasing Jesus followers to becoming one through his Damascus road experience with Jesus.

At one point, Paul was in front of King Agrippa speaking to him about his work for Jesus. In Acts 26:28-29 Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

I noted in my study guide for this chapter – we all have a testimony to share – our elevator speech – how we were before Jesus, when and how we met Jesus, and how we are after Jesus has saved us from our sins. Paul’s mission was to share what he knew. That’s our mission too. Paul prayed for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and have a relationship with Him just like he had.

He prayed for the short term – people who were listening at that moment; and he prayed for the long term – those who would come to a saving knowledge after his departure. But you know what’s really cool? Through Paul’s writings, we are his long term prayer request. His prayer is still being answered as each one of us who reads and understands what Paul knew and we find our salvation in Jesus alone. Prayer is a powerful tool that can open hearts to the amazing grace of God.

Even as we pray for others, we may not see the answer in our lifetime, but I do know prayers are never forgotten by God. I do believe I had ancestors praying for my salvation even though they didn’t know me or knew I would exist. But God did. He heard and He answered. I don’t know what future generations will come, but I pray for their salvation and that they too will have a relationship with Jesus so closely that they will never doubt His love or fail to trust Him in all circumstances.

I may need to see the “cones in the road” to heed warnings in the physical world, but I hope to never fail to see the spiritual warnings the Spirit uses to keep me focused on the task at hand. Let me be like Paul and finish the race before me, submitted to the Spirit’s instruction regardless of what’s ahead of me knowing God is in control and I can trust Him no matter what. As Jesus instructed Paul (see below), He instructs us. Let us go and do likewise.

“I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16-18

God is Still in Control

So much is going through my head and heart right now. You might have wondered where I’ve been since it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. I just can’t seem to focus on anything of value to bring to you.

There are things I want to say, but maybe a little afraid to say them. Or things I shouldn’t say and afraid I’ll say them.

But this thing I know and you might need to hear, God is still in control. No matter how crazy things seem right now, God still is in control. No matter if this virus running through our streets looks like it’s going to shut everything down again, God is still in control. Nation against nation; neighbor against neighbor; right against left – God is still in control.

When I moved to my hometown a little over nine months ago, I moved because I didn’t know what the future was going to hold. I wanted to be close to family. Maybe I was a bit afraid that something would happen and I couldn’t get home. Maybe I forgot God is bigger than all this and knows what I need when I need it.

However, God has been in this move with me. I found a job after only two weeks time and it’s a job where I needed to be. I didn’t know it at the time, but God prepared a place for me at just the right time. I found a place to lease quickly right after selling my house. It was just the right place I needed for this season. My church home has already been established long ago and I have felt at home here from day one; already in the right place, for this season. Studying the Word with a discipleship group who keep me focused on the things that matter. God knew what I needed when I would need it. God is in control.

At this time we are studying the book of Romans. I am reminded the depth of God’s Word and how much I never really understood all Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman Christians. I normally just read through a passage and really don’t comprehend what God is speaking through it. But through this study time now, we are challenged to write down what is popping out in that chapter. One thing continues to pop out to me, God did it all. God made a way even though we didn’t deserve His love, His grace or His mercy. Thankfully, He did it anyway. God started this plan and He will finish it completely.

From beginning to end, it’s about faith. He made a way for us when we were His enemy. At just the right time, Jesus died for the ungodly – for me, for you and for all who came before us and for all who will come after us. Jesus brings us righteousness and life – two things we cannot have apart from Him. We didn’t pursue righteousness, but obtained it through faith in Jesus.

Faith is at the heart of the believer, but love is the motivation to be like Jesus, to act like Jesus. Jesus loved people well. So should we. However, I am not very good at it like I want to be. Without the love of Jesus we cannot affect others with the Good News. If we don’t love first, then whatever we do or say will be fruitless.

Physically I may be in a good place, but spiritually and emotionally speaking I’m still not where I should be. But I believe God has me where I can learn a lesson or two, so bear with me while I work out what’s going on in this place. No matter what, God is still in control and I can trust Him to move and to make me more like Jesus – you can trust Him too. Until next time, continue to keep the faith!

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

Plaque on the Wall

Every year for the last thirty years, my family has gathered at the beach for a week. It’s a time to rest, relax and renew relationships. It’s a time of fun for the kids and time of laughter and enjoyment for the adults (with a little golf thrown in). When the tradition first started, my nephews were young. Now, they have kids of their own. And we all gather. It’s a great time.

But looking back when it all began, no one knew we would continue this tradition for thirty years. Each year, we would decide if we were going again and the answer was always yes. It was hard on my parents in the beginning because the nephew’s didn’t always “toe the line.” They had a bit of rebellion against making beds and cleaning their room to the satisfaction of my Mom. My Mom had girls not boys so she was used to the way girls handled themselves. But over the years, Mom adjusted and we had some of the most blessed times as a family while we were at the beach; precious memories that will (hopefully) never be forgotten.

As I wrote my newsletter this month about Joshua’s commitment to serving the Lord, it was a reminder how my family has been blessed by God because of my parent’s commitment to serve the Lord. The passage found in Joshua 24:15 was engraved on a plaque that hung in the living area of my childhood home. The plaque read But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” It wasn’t much of a plaque but the statement has spoken volumes to the last three generations because of my parent’s commitment.

My parents chose a path for us which has endured many hardships but has brought significant blessings. My parents did well to instill values in the daughters which has passed to the sons and now into the sons and daughters. This generation didn’t know their great-grandparents. They didn’t know about the plaque on the wall. But they have the blessing of the commitment taken years before them. My parents did everything they could to help us as their children to love the Lord.

We were at church whenever the doors were open. It was the thing we did, but it was also a product of the time. However, it has lasted for us as a family. We haven’t always gotten it perfectly. Lord knows, I have had my own difficulties. But God has been faithful even when we have not. God still allowed the hardships to draw us back to Him or draw Him more closely during those times.

Recently, I was reminded that faith, hope and love were the greatest blessings of the Holy Spirit. However, love is the only thing that remains in heaven. First Corinthians 13:13 states: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Faith becomes sight when we see Jesus face to face. Hope becomes reality when we dwell in our heavenly place. But love is everlasting and has been and ever will be the theme of heaven. And it’s the one God commanded us to practice each and every day here on earth – to love God and to love others.

My parents are reaping the rewards of a job well done. I miss them every day. We remember their sacrifices to bring us to where we are today. We wouldn’t be in this place without them. And I thank God for them today and for all the blessings of this week – good weather, good fun and good food. But the real blessing is to know Jesus is loved and taught to the next generation in this place. We gather because of Him. We gather as a family because of Him.

God instills a sense of family in us all because of Jesus dying on a cross so that we would be adopted into His family on our belief in Him. Family is important to God the Father. It’s His way of teaching us about Himself. He is a good, good Father. God loves us like my Dad loved his daughters, although my Dad did it imperfectly, he was a good representation of my Father in heaven.

It’s no wonder our enemy is trying to destroy families. And he seems to be doing a really good job at it right now. Satan hates everything God has put into place to glorify Himself. Family has been in place since the beginning of time. It was the way God created relationships through family. It was the way we were to love one another from the beginning. It’s the atmosphere of the Church Body. Family.

It’s no wonder that Joshua spoke to the Israelites on the verge of conquering the Promised Land to proclaim his allegiance to serve God and not idols. It’s no wonder why my parents chose to hang the plaque on the wall as a reminder – that’s the commitment for our family to do the same. And now, the next generation is being taught this commitment as well. May the blessing continue…

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Dry Wood in This Season

In my newsletter for May, 2021, I wrote about Elijah’s prayer. When I was finished writing for the moment, I went back into my archives and found a post from 2012. I used 2012’s blog to write my second book. Since I was on a theme this month, I thought I would dust this off and post the longer “book” version. I hope this encourages you in this season we’re in…

One Sunday morning while sitting in my nephew’s Sunday school class, we were engaged in a discussion about Elijah and powerful prayers. We were discussing the prayer Elijah prayed to God to bring fire upon the altar in the confrontation with the prophets of Baal (see I Kings 18:16-39). Elijah told the servants to wet the sacrifice which in turn wet the wood and the ground. He asked them to do it three times. I have heard this story many times, but what stayed with me this time was the image of the wood. The drought had lasted at least three years at the time of this confrontation. The wood the servants would have been using was very dry. Dry wood would have soaked up the water being poured on the altar. Wet wood cannot be lit unless it’s done supernaturally!

James wrote in his letter that Elijah was just like everyone else. Elijah prayed for no rain, and it did not rain for over three years (James 5:17). Elijah prayed for the fire to come down to consume the sacrifice (First Kings 18). And God answered this bold prayer of Elijah.

Elijah was doing the work of the Lord. He was God’s instrument to bring Israel back into a relationship with Him. Elijah prayed and God responded. Not only was the sacrifice consumed; the wood and the altar were burned up and the water in the trench evaporated in one huge showcase of God’s power. God likes to display His power. God also likes to use us to display His glory. We have the capacity to ask bold prayers to display the wonders of God.

I think the majority of the reason we don’t pray such prayers is because we don’t believe He’ll answer or maybe we don’t believe He can do it. We deal with a lack of faith in His ability to deliver our requests. We should have the type of faith that we could attempt great things and expect great things from God. It honors Him when we ask bold prayers.

One of the things that I find remarkable in relational to Peter is his boldness after he received the Holy Spirit. Before he was filled with the Spirit, he was fearful – denying Jesus (Luke 22:54-62), sitting in a locked room fearful of the Jews (John 20:19). Once the Holy Spirit fills him at Pentecost, he addresses the crowd where three thousand believed his message – Jesus is Lord – accredited by God by miracles, wonders and signs; He died, and rose again because death could not hold Him (Acts 2:22-41)! The Holy Spirit changed Peter from coward to a bold message bearer. Boldness is one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. He enables us to be bold if we would have the faith to ask.

I chuckle every time I read about Peter being released from prison by a miraculous encounter with an angel. The story is found in Acts 12. Verse five says: So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The church was actively praying for Peter; God answered in a miraculous way. He shows up at the believer’s door; the people don’t believe its Peter, even though they had been in prayer for Peter’s release. Did the church believe that God was going to answer?

Yet, I am the same way. Why do I pray? What’s my motivation for prayer? I want to pray some really bold prayers. But I have to check my motives. I have to check if it’s something I desire for my own benefit or if it’s going to benefit others. Do I want to move God’s Kingdom forward by my bold requests?

God has given me an urgency to do more and to be more attuned to His will. I do believe too that we are going to see even greater things than what we could ever ask or imagine in the next few years. I think the time of dryness is over. We have to be bold in our prayers. We see these great men of the Bible and think they aren’t like us. However, they were nothing special. They were flawed individuals that God used in mighty ways. He likes weakness in us so that He will get the glory – not us. My prayers may not bring an end to a drought or change the course of history. But they could if I were to ask and believe – all it takes is the smallest of faith in a very large God. He is who He says He is. He is the miracle worker.

I think I have put God in a box. I expect small things from God. I seem to believe that He can only handle small things and not my huge problems. The problem with this theory is that my huge problem is nothing in the sight of God. The one who created the universe – the universe that we are still discovering is still growing. My perception needs to change. God’s story told through Scripture tells of a mighty big God. No matter the size of the box, it’s still too small to contain an awesome God. Scripture tells us that we have to have faith in the One to whom we bring our prayers. Hebrews 11:6 says anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Faith, as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. Bold prayers offered in faith to a mighty God will be heard and answered.

…How much more do we need bold prayers at such a time as this. Let’s be bold and be brave and let God work through us! Amen!

The Clear Message

The story goes: a fellow came into an office chatting up the receptionist. He leaned over and said “my friends call me Tom Cat, what do they call you?” She replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never met them.”

I had to chuckle at that… it was from a show I watched last night. (I’m into British dramas and found this one on my Roku.)

This morning, I sat with Paul in his letter to the Galatians. His letter was written because of words spoken from “false brothers” who were spreading a “law-based Gospel” – the original “fake news.”

Words matter…the right words are essential for the clear message you want to send. Tom Cat didn’t get through to the receptionist; the message was completely lost on the poor girl. But Paul knew how to deliver a good message that mattered. His words changed people – even today.

Paul had to make sure what the Galatians heard from him was the true message without anything “added” to the message. Paul went to Jerusalem to confirm his message – salvation comes by grace and by faith not by the Law of Moses. The false brothers wanted Gentiles (non-Jews) to take up the Law in order to be “true” believers.

Paul’s conclusion about the gospel message was summed up in this manner “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21b). The leaders added nothing to Paul’s message to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:6b). The leaders actually affirmed that Paul was entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews (Gal. 2:7).

Paul had harsh words for the ones who were spreading a gospel other than the one he preached to the Galatians. Galatians 1:9 states: As we have already said, so now I say again: “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.” Paul’s message was not something man made up (Gal. 1:11), nor did a man teach him, but only by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12). Paul’s message was clear. Words matter and the source is just as important to confirm what we know to be true.

Yesterday, my office had a celebration of life for an employee who died in February from cancer. As the co-workers began to share what this lady had meant to them, it was very evident she was a light shining in this dark world. She had such joy, a smile on her face and was a good friend to all. It’s a shame I didn’t get to meet her. I started this job after she had already left because of her sickness. This time of celebration brought to me remembrances from another death that changed my life.

My friend and coworker died suddenly by tragic circumstances on this day 28 years ago. At that point in my life, I knew about Jesus – after all I grew up in Church – but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. When my friend died, I had to step back and take stock. I realized if I had died suddenly like my friend, I didn’t know if I would be in heaven like my friend. Her death gave me a perspective I hadn’t contemplated until that time.

Here I am 28 years later, hopefully wiser, but also walking the walk I didn’t know how to walk back then. One thing I am contemplating this morning that still sits in my soul after so many years – how am I using my life to further the Gospel message? Paul fought the good fight – he ran his race. After 28 years of walking with Jesus, what do I have to show for it? I want my life to count for Kingdom purpose. Does it?

At the end of my life – no matter when that will be – have I led anyone to Jesus? Have I pointed my life to Him so that others coming behind me can follow? That’s what Paul did. He walked, he talked and then he wrote so that others would be able to follow the Gospel message as Jesus had revealed it to him.

In this day and time, it is essential to share this Good News, especially around this time of year – this Easter season. It’s supposed to be easy to share this wonderful message when it has made such a difference in our lives.

After this year we’ve had, if our circumstances haven’t changed us by now, nothing will challenge us to do what we know to do. We are losing ground to the enemy. How will people know the Truth unless we speak it? How will people hear unless we go? These are the things that circulate in my heart when confronted with the Gospel message. Let me be aware of who God places on my path and let me be bold to share. Words matter… it’s time to share what we know to be True.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Friends Matter

First off, it’s been a few months since I’ve written anything for this space. After the move and the chaos that this country has been in, I just haven’t been in the correct head space to sit down and write. I am trying to change my mindset so hopefully I will be a bit more consistent in the future.

A conversation yesterday helped me to think on a few things. The topic was on friendship. One of my weaknesses is I cannot think on my feet fast enough to have a comeback in a conversation. I am a great listener but terrible responder. The conversation had me thinking throughout the evening and began again upon waking this morning. I tend to think about things until I write them down. So here I am writing this down.

The conversation led to the final statement, “well, Jesus hung around sinners and we shouldn’t judge.” All true. First and foremost – we are all sinners. Nobody is without sin except Jesus. He proved He could withstand any sin. He told religious ones who were questioning Him He came for sinners – to save the lost. We’re all lost so who else was He going to hang around?

However, He had ones He poured into to give them an opportunity to change. He had twelve He made His disciples. They were to learn from Him and see what He did and how they were to carry on the message. Eleven got it, one didn’t.

Jesus also had an inner circle; they were the only ones who witnessed special moments. They were not to tell of those moments until a later date (after His resurrection). Jesus knew people’s hearts. He knew who was ready to hear His message and those who were looking for an excuse to take away His platform of change. The religious ones hated Him. Jesus’ message challenged them and they were not willing to listen.

Jesus always pointed His friends to God the Father. Those who turned away from their sins, sought God’s forgiveness, they changed and hung around Jesus more to learn from Him. Their sin pattern changed. They still sinned, but the conviction was there when they did. You see this in Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus when Jesus was arrested. Peter was one of the inner circle friends. Imagine the hurt Jesus felt even though He knew Peter would deny Him. Imagine Peter’s hurt when he realized what he had done. Peter wept bitterly because of what he had done.

From the beginning, Peter knew he was a sinner. Early on in Jesus’ ministry, Peter told Jesus after Jesus had performed a miracle – “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).But Jesus had chosen Peter, even with his faults, because Jesus knew Peter would have a change of heart. Peter would become a fisherman for men and would be successful at it. Peter left his livelihood and left everything behind to follow Jesus. And Peter did become very successful at drawing people to Jesus after he received the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost (see the story in Acts 2).

Jesus hung around sinners, yes. But He didn’t leave them that way. The ones who heard and responded to His message changed. Tax collectors changed how they did business. A woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus to be condemned. But Jesus didn’t condemn her. He said the first one without sin should throw the first stone. No one threw a stone at her because they had all sinned and fallen short of God’s Law – this Law was given so that the people who know when they sinned. God’s Law was put in place to give His people guardrails to stay within His boundaries. But it was impossible for God’s people to live that way in their sinful nature.

So Jesus – the one without sin – did not throw a stone either. He told the woman to go and sin no more. Yes, it’s impossible to live as God requires. It’s impossible to live without sin. However, Jesus came to give us a new life. He saves us from our sinful life. Our pattern of sins is broken. We are convicted when we sin and confess it to Him. He forgives our sins and we walk away cleansed. It’s a difference of consistency. We no longer are consistently committing the same sins. When we received God’s forgiveness, we are changed.

Back to the friend issue that started this blog posting.

I know when I gave my life to Jesus I could no longer hang out with the people I knew before. It wasn’t they were bad people; I enjoyed hanging out with them. But they wouldn’t lead me where I needed to go. I needed different people to help me on this walk that I’m on with Jesus. I needed a different set of inner circle friends who would encourage me on this journey with Jesus. I am still friends with some of those I hung out with, but it’s different than it was before. They are not my inner circle.

Friends matter. We need them. And we don’t leave our friends behind; they need Jesus too. One of our purposes when we give our lives to Jesus is to lead others to Him. If they are not willing or fill the need to change, then it’s not our responsibility to change them. But we are to love them and pray for them to have a heart change. We are to be near them when they are ready to hear about this Jesus we love. When the time is right and Jesus has touched them through us, then they will see their need for our friend Jesus and be changed.

The bottom line is to choose friends wisely. If they are not leading us toward Jesus, then they are leading us away. It matters who you hang with. First and foremost, stay connected with Jesus and He will lead you to the right people to be in your inner circle. The rest of our friends may not have as much of our time as before, but unless Jesus says to let them go, then stay close enough to influence them but far enough that they don’t influence you.

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Just Jesus

One year around Thanksgiving, I traveled overseas. When I came home, I decided to skip the Christmas decorations since it was later than I normally would have decorated. However, I realized while I was going through the season, I just couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit. I vowed to always put up something for Christmas. And since then I haven’t failed to decorate.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written in a while. I still have put out small newsletters for the last couple of months, but have failed to post here in this spot. I have had quite a bit of change in the last few months.

Since the virus has increased its hold on the world, it’s made me realize I need to be near my family. I was living alone in a large city (compared to my hometown) and things were not settling down as I would have hoped. I wrestled with the idea of moving from the city I had called home for the last twenty-one years. Finally, I made the decision to put the house on the market and it sold in a day. Things began to happen quickly and decisions needed to be made quickly. It’s a bit unsettling to be transitioning to a new place at this stage of my life. But I felt it was the right time and going home seemed like the best place for me.

After five weeks, I was moved into my new place. After another couple of weeks, I started working full time (which I haven’t done in ten years). It’s been an adjustment, but I love living here again. I love hanging out with my sisters. However, it’s different. One of my sisters told me at Thanksgiving, she didn’t know if she would consider it a holiday since I usually stayed with her during the holidays. During those holidays, we did things together like cooking, shopping, and just sitting around talking before going to bed. Now, it’s different. I sleep in my own bed at the end of the day. And I mess up my own kitchen when cooking my share of the Thanksgiving meal.

Christmas will bring another adjustment for me. I have never been alone on Christmas morning. I have always stayed with one of my sisters. It reminds me of that Christmas when I didn’t decorate – it’s going to be different. And this year maybe even more different because of these circumstances we now live in. Will we have family joining us in the celebration or will it just be the immediate family? This year is just different in every way!

In my quiet time this morning, I read a message from a book written by missionaries. One of the missionaries wrote that the first Christmas on the mission field had been difficult because of all the “stuff” that surrounded her normally at Christmas time wasn’t there. They had moved with very little of their belongings. They didn’t have the friendships or the family in that new place nor was it a cold place. She realized at one point, she just wasn’t in the Christmas spirit.

She asked the Lord to show her something new about the Christmas story to help her transition in her new place. She stated the Lord showed her the actual heart of the Christmas story and in turn changed her heart. Jesus is Christmas and He is enough. “When all the stuff – the lights, gifts, trees, food and even friends – was taken away, it came down to Jesus. He is the only reason to be celebrating.”

“I said to the LORD, ‘You are my LORD, apart from you I have no good thing.’” (Psalm 16:2)

Her message gave my own spirit a nudge. It’s not about the things or even when I wake up alone – I am never alone. Jesus is enough. One day, everything will be stripped away. We will all face Jesus. He has to be enough. I am reminded of the older people in my life who live with Jesus alone. My aunt is a great example. She still reads her Bible every day. It’s her lifeline – even when her mind fails her, she still has Jesus. He is enough for her. I want that to be my heart as well. I want Jesus to be enough.

If the world goes as it is recorded in Scripture, we need to cling to Jesus. He will be our lifeline. Now is the time to anchor ourselves in Him. We grow stronger in the crisis, but we can’t be certain of Him in the crisis without knowing Him fully in times of peace. Now is not the time to drift with uncertainty but be steadfast in Jesus.

Life will always have complications, but Jesus is our Rock. He is trustworthy and true. Jesus is Christmas. He is the heart of God’s story. If we can’t celebrate that fact alone – without the trees, lights, family or friends, then we have nothing. Jesus is enough. Let’s affirm that with Him today and remind ourselves when times get difficult – He is not fretting or indecisive. He knows what we need and when we need it. He’s got everything under His control. Remember, Jesus is enough.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:2-3

Oneness

Over the last few weeks, I have had a sense that God is using this time to purify the Church. I have said a few times over the last few years to friends and family the Church will need to go through a few things before Jesus returns. I believe we are seeing one of those “things” in order for the Church to be ready for Jesus’ return. He’s coming back for His Bride (the Church) one day – He said so (John 14:3)!

God’s Word tells us nothing impure or unholy will ever see His Kingdom. It’s impossible for us to live as we ought unless we are fully “in” with Christ. It’s sad to say, but the Church hasn’t lived in the Way of Jesus for quite some time (at least in the US branch of the Church). We have allowed the world to dictate how we live our lives and its counter to how Jesus would have us live. We have allowed the world to influence the Church instead of the Church influencing the world.

In Revelation, Jesus gave a message to John to give to the church at Laodicea. Jesus was not pleased with their attitude and had a few harsh words for their lukewarmness. It was detestable to Him. John wrote these words from Jesus (Revelation 3:17-18) “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Experts tell us that the churches found in Revelation are the stages of the Church throughout the Church age. Laodicea is considered as the last Church stage before the Church age ends. After this chapter in Revelation, the Church is no longer mentioned. Experts tell us the Church will be taken from the earth and the enemy will have his way on earth for a season.

However, the enemy is not waiting for the Church to depart. His plan is to make the Church ineffective right now. There is a real spiritual war going on and the Church is at the center of it all. The Church has to keep the focus on Jesus – the Head of the Body. The Church should be the light in the community to drive away the darkness. The character of the Church should be like salt (Jesus’ message found in Matthew 5). However, the enemy is out to divide and conquer.

Division was also a concern for Jesus. In John 17:11 we find Jesus’ prayer for His disciples. Jesus prayed the disciples would be one as He and His Father were one. Jesus’ upmost heart was that the disciples represented Him well. He asked that they love one another. Love is the unifying force so that others would see Jesus’ disciples by how well they loved one another and others in the community.

The apostle Paul also wrote the Corinthian church to be aware of divisions in the Church. We find this directive in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:10 TPT) “I urge you, my brothers and sisters, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree to live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart. Be restored as one united body living in perfect harmony. Form a consistent choreography among yourselves, having a common perspective with shared values”.

The Church will continue to be in difficult times as the end of the Church age draws near. We will need each other more and more. We must encourage each other and stay focused on the mission – love God and love others – so that we will be a sweet fragrance to God our Father, but also be a good representation of Jesus to win others for the Kingdom. Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be afraid. God is still in control and His plan is still at work. Let’s be unified in our love – let’s be one and give God the glory!

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:19-22

Finding My Happy Place

How you feeling these days? I must admit, my head hasn’t been in a good place during these last couple of months. I have been going a bit stir crazy. I am also feeling a bit frustrated and ready for all this to be over. You too? I don’t know anyone who is enjoying these crazy times. I do like less traffic in the morning when I have to go to work. But if I am not careful about my thoughts, the loneliness and lack of social interaction can overwhelm me.

My happy place is with my family. I wrote about my family time at the beach back in June. I need to share a secret with you. Everyone who commented on the blog posting said it was a great tribute to my parents and I guess it was after all. However, the secret is my parents were not the focus as I wrote out my thoughts about the beach trip. I was actually thanking my family for an amazing time throughout the years. Yes, my parents were instrumental in the foundation of our annual beach trip set twenty-eight (?) years ago. But this year, the trip was so needed in my life. I was growing desperate for some type of normalcy and finding peace in the craziness. The trip came at the right time.

Human interactions are truly important to our emotional and physical health. We need it. We crave it. I most definitely need my family time. I’ve had a revelation about how much I need my family during a crisis. It’s made me rethink my future and where I need to be for the next season of life. My timetable for moving to my “retirement” place may be sooner rather than later.

Our emotional wellbeing is just as important as our physical wellbeing. So what do you do to get your head in the right space? Do you have hobbies you turn to for a “happy” hour or two? I love golf. I also enjoy walks and being outside. I noticed when I don’t get outside, I get a bit cranky. What makes you happy?  It really is essential to find a place to go when the craziness is too much.

I have also realized that I need my time with Jesus. Maybe the struggles we face are to bring us closer to Jesus. He is supposed to be our “happy” place. He is our comforter, our peace in troubling times, our rescuer, and our protector. Being in God’s Word, keeps me focused and keeps me from feeling isolated and lonely. I remember where Paul was when he wrote most of his letters to the churches and to his fellow missionaries. If not for prison, we might not have had these Scriptures. Think about that for a minute or two.

We need to stay focused on the things that are important to us. We are to make it a priority to gain some perspective of where we are in life and this season we’re in. God can use us in this season if we stay open to what He is doing around us. We might not be in prison but we have some available time right now. What is God calling you to do in this season? What is He showing you about this time we’re in right now?

This is not the end as we know it. It’s just a different season. God is still working on His plan and things may seem out of control. But I believe God is placing things in the right place for the next season. We may need to move into the right place. Or God may already have us in the right place for now. Keep your eyes and ears open and wait on the Lord. I believe we will see something greater if we just wait on Him to move.

Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7), he fought the good fight, he finished his race, he kept the faith. Just as Paul suffered in his season and came out on top, we too can have his focus and keep the faith even in our trying times. Find your happy place and hang on. Get your head in the right space. Endure through this time. Keep the faith as Paul did while he underwent his trials of separation.

The victory is ours even when it feels like the battle has been lost. God is still in control. Brace yourself for what may come next, but lean upon the only thing that cannot be shaken – Jesus. He is a sure foundation that cannot be moved. Be amazed in His presence for you cannot go wrong when you are with Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8

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