buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Keep it Hot!

What better message to send on a hot summer day than to fan the flames to make us even hotter. What? Okay, this morning I read the passage about the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3. That passage always checks my spirit. The church was considered to be lukewarm – neither cold nor hot. Laodicea was known for their lukewarm waters – it was disgusting and people would spit it out. Jesus said He wanted to do the same with their attitude toward God.

My spirit does a check to see if my attitude has shifted into indifference or stagnation – being lukewarm toward God. I don’t want it to go there, but oftentimes, I find myself easing back into patterns that allow this unholy attitude toward God. It doesn’t take much for my eyes to shift away from Jesus into worldly patterns. I spend less time with Him in the mornings because I want just a few more minutes of sleep. Or watch television at night taking me away from more godly pursuits.

I have heard it said the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Indifference can stop any movement of God. I have found myself in those indifference moments because a social problem doesn’t concern me. However, our attitude toward social issues can become extreme. Tony Evans made the remark in a recent message “we are more concerned about what’s going on in the White House than what’s going on in God’s house.” That was a jolt to my spirit. We’re fanning the flames in the wrong place.

As Christians, our involvement in political things should be for the right reason. As Christians, we need to make sure we elect people who have godly values so that the government will be kept in check. However, as Christians are priority is saving lives – spreading the message of hope and restoration. We are to reflect Jesus to those around us. Many times though, we go through these seasons of dryness where nothing is happening in our spiritual lives to keep us on fire for the Lord. Our faith seems to have diminished and our hope seems to have fizzled when more and more of the world’s problems creep into our spirits.

It’s hard not to let those issues turn our heads into wrong actions and wrong words when our spirits have not been thoroughly cleansed by the presence of Jesus. My heart hurts when I hear words spewing out of person’s mouth that do not glorify God and these things are said by a supposed Christian. I also have to check my spirit when I want to judge that person. I don’t know what’s going on in that person’s heart to cause words to flow that are not edifying anyone. I am not to judge but to love. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.

I want to see God move again. It’s time for the spirit to be checked. A lack of faith or an attitude of indifference can keep God from moving. Maybe we’re not in a good place to hear or see God. Maybe we’re in a place where there is only lukewarm water flowing. Maybe we need to move to where the living water is flowing sweet and clear. Maybe we have lost our first love.

When the first church began, it was through the Holy Spirit’s tongues of fire resting on the people. The people had gathered together in prayer and worship before the Holy Spirit came down. They fasted as well. They were anticipating something to happen – Jesus told them to wait for it. They prepared for it; and when it happened, lives were changed dramatically.

I believe we can have that again. I believe God wants hearts turned toward Him again like it was in the beginning. He is waiting. Jesus is standing at the door waiting for the door to open to Him. There is no handle on His side of the door – the door has to be opened by us. Are we preparing and anticipating His knock? It could mean a world of difference – not only for us as God’s people, but the world is looking to us for the answers.

Our attitudes have to change. God is waiting on us to fan the flames into a holy fire. Indifference – no. Passion for Jesus – yes, please. Faith – white-hot. Jesus could do nothing when there is a lack of faith. I believe Jesus is waiting on us to remove the indifferent attitude toward Him and toward others. God is ready to move mightily among us. I’m ready for it. Are you? Fling open the door and say yes, Lord Jesus, come.

I know all that you do, and I know that you are neither frozen in apathy nor fervent with passion. How I wish you were either one or the other! But because you are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, I am about to spit you from my mouth. For you claim, “I’m rich and getting richer—I don’t need a thing.” Yet you are clueless that you’re miserable, poor, blind, barren, and naked! So I counsel you to purchase gold perfected by fire, so that you can be truly rich. Purchase a white garment to cover and clothe your shameful Adam-nakedness. Purchase eye salve to be placed over your eyes so that you can truly see. All those I dearly love I unmask and train. So repent and be eager to pursue what is right. Behold, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If your heart is open to hear my voice and you open the door within, I will come in to you and feast with you, and you will feast with me. Revelation 3:15-20 (TPT)

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The Seed

Do you know anything about seeds? I don’t know much, but what I do know I find amazing. There are interesting little specimens of life. The seed has a protection against enemies so that it can live. Seeds have a coating that contains some type of poison so that it will not be attractive to a predator. It has an innate ability to survive. Seeds have within them many seeds to come. One little seed has the potential to become a forest. Amazing, right?

This week, I finished the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. The last chapter was an inspirational charge. I’m not a feminist nor do I claim to be. However, I want to empower women to live up to their potential. Through the ages, women have always worked alongside the men to do Kingdom work. They might not get the recognition, but they work long and hard to do God’s work. Women have not always had the opportunities that we now can claim. We have an equal footing in our society, not like some others that still consider women as second-class citizens. Jesus recognized women in His ministry. We have Jesus to thank to bring women out of obscurity into new roles for Kingdom purpose.

I believe God has jobs in His Kingdom that only women can do. I feel empowered every time I read things like Lisa wrote to encourage women to go out there and do the job they’re called to do. Sometimes I will get discouraged on this walk of faith. When discouragement happens, I will pick up a book like Adamant which encourages me to keep the faith and keep doing what I am called to do.

As I read the last chapter this week, Lisa gave reference to seeds lying dormant in us. Lisa wrote about digging in the catacombs in Rome. Researchers found “frescoes illustrating scenes from the early church days. Some of the frescoes portrayed women ministering alongside the men.” The man who told the story to Lisa spoke a word to her about these frescoes that awoke something in her. As she wrote these things, she asked this question: “What is it the enemy wanted buried in your life?” These seeds are lying there waiting to come to life. These seeds one day could have the potential to build a forest.

We all have that seed within us. It may be forgotten by us but it has not been forgotten by God who put it in us from the beginning. There may be some type of forest fire that is going on in our lives to clear the area for the seed to have room to grow. Fires are a cleansing and purifying tool. Satan may think he has the upper hand when fires are consuming us, but in reality the fires are purifying us and making us ready. It may be a barren place right now, but soon the forest will emerge. God told us that all things hidden will be revealed. What God has placed in us cannot lie dormant. It has to come out. It’s the seed that longs to be birthed and give life to something new.

Many times I’ve written about my struggle to find my purpose. That hasn’t changed. I still struggle with it. But maybe it’s in the struggle that purpose is birthed. In the struggle, character emerges. In the character, conviction is conceived. In the conviction, a new mindset is brought to life. With a new mindset, we build a life that is filled with purpose. Every day we are given more choices and more opportunities to be stretched in a way we’ve never had before. Those exercises strengthen our faith.

Maybe we don’t see it. Maybe we’re blind and need eyes to see. Maybe we need to ask Jesus to touch our eyes again like the blind man who couldn’t see on the first touch. The man saw people like trees walking around (Mark 8:24). After the second touch, trees were no longer walking. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly (Mark 8:25).

Maybe we still see people as trees – obstacles in our way of progress. We are not called to fight causes for justice – although it’s a good thing to fight. We are called to the people to give hope and help them to also see that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. When we change the people, we change society. The people around us are opportunities to fertilize and cultivate something deeper in us. They are the purpose we have to a deeper life with Jesus. We grow when we minister to others. The seed within grows.

We sow the seed of hope everyday in our interactions that will one day bring the forest to fruition. What we cannot see, God does and He is faithful to complete the tasks. Our job is to scatter the seed and let the Creator birth something new through our actions. Maybe that’s really our purpose. It pleases God for us to be His seed spreaders. We may not get the recognition here, but we live for the reward we will receive in heaven. We are called to love God and love people. When we do that, a forest is built upon the seed.

“The seed that fell into good, fertile soil represents those lovers of truth who hear it deep within their hearts. They respond by clinging to the word, keeping it dear as they endure all things in faith. This is the seed that will one day bear much fruit in their lives. No one lights a lamp and then hides it, covering it over or putting it where its light won’t be seen. No, the lamp is placed on a lampstand so others are able to benefit from its brightness.” Luke 8:15-16 (TPT)

Happy Father’s Day

A couple of weeks ago, the family had our annual beach trip. I believe this was our twenty-sixth trip. Usually, we all stay in one house. This year, we had to expand to two or at least both sides of a duplex. There were eighteen of us gathered together this year. There could have been more family members but a few couldn’t make it for the full week or at all.

My Dad wasn’t there for the first time. It seemed a bit strange not to have the patriarch of the family there. This will most likely be the norm as my father has become more home bound over this past year. Actually, after last year’s beach trip, I really didn’t think he would have lived another year. This past year has been a bit rough for him. However, he seems to be holding his own right now. He will be turning 91 in a couple of weeks so we have been fortunate to have him with us this long even though he’s home bound.

I mentioned this annual trip for a reason. This annual trip lets me observe my nephews in a different way. My nephews have grown into great fathers. I can see their daily interactions with their children. I can see how much they love them. I mean, I know they love their children. But observing them on a daily basis, I see how they love them. Yes, it’s correcting them when siblings hurt each other. Cousins get involved in mishaps as well. There were injuries from splinters and a smashed finger; sickness is always a concern as well. The Dads always stepped up to help out. They were right there with Mom correcting, comforting and loving on their kids.

My nephews are representing God the Father well. I know this because of my own Dad. He represented God the Father to me as I was growing up. I have a good Dad. I have a loving Dad. Over the last few years when I have called my Dad, he reminds me before he hangs up “to remember my Dad loves me a whole, whole bunch.” He hasn’t voiced that reminder in a few months, but I remember him telling me this for last few years and it still warms my heart. I am loved and I feel it. My nephews are giving that to my grand nieces and nephews. They will know they are loved and they will feel loved.

For the “grands” it will not be a big leap of faith to recognize a loving Father in heaven loves them as well. It wasn’t for me either because of what I experienced through my own Dad. Yes, there were doubts when troubles arose and discipline was hashed out. But actually, that is more loving than letting us run out into the ocean to drown. (Forgive the beach analogies.)

Boundaries are given for our protection. Sometimes we see them as confining instead of liberating. We see a line and we want to cross it because we know what’s on the other side has to be better. But if God put a line in the sand, there is a reason we shouldn’t cross it. God loves us more than we can imagine and wants the best for us. The best is not to cross the line. However, if we cross the line, He doesn’t love us any less. There is nothing we could do that would cause Him to love us less. It’s the same regardless of what we do. But His best is to stay in His boundaries. That’s His protection.

When the line has been crossed, the Father will allow it but there are always consequences to rebellion. However, like the Father in the Prodigal Son story (Luke 15), God is always waiting on our return. His arms are open wide for our return. And He never condemns us – that’s Satan’s job. God the Father loves us unconditionally.

I remember Ruth Graham talking about her Dad (Billy Graham) when she had a failure in life. She rode up to her Dad’s house and her Dad was waiting in the driveway. He didn’t condemn her for her actions, but wrapped her in his arms and said “welcome home.” That’s how our Father in Heaven responds to us when we have stepped outside His boundaries. Remember God the Father is our good, good Father. His love will never change. He will never change.

If you have had a good father here on earth – thank God the Father for blessing you and your family in this way. Your Dad has been a good example of a good and loving Father in Heaven. Remember your Father in Heaven loves you a whole, whole bunch! His arms are open wide. You are loved. Know it and feel it. Happy Father’s Day!

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20b-24

Rock and Truth

A couple of weeks ago, my small group started reading the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. Since the first chapter, I have had this picture in my head. In the first chapter, Lisa writes about the Rock, the Cornerstone of our faith. Somewhere in the midst of that chapter (which I could not find to reference), there was a word picture of being in the rock – not that we stand on the rock, but we are actually planted in the rock. So the picture I have in my head is my feet firmly within the rock – my feet have become the rock.

Lisa’s point about being part of the rock was that if we stand on a rock, any wave that hits us can knock us off; but if we are firmly within the rock, no wave will overtake us. We are firmly grounded and nothing can move us. The book’s tag line is Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions. The rock is Jesus, the cornerstone, the unmovable, never-changing Truth. If we are firmly grounded in the Truth, we cannot be moved by the tides of change in our ever-changing culture.

It’s easy to get off track when we listen to others opinions. It’s easy to get into disagreements based on our perceptions. But when we stand on the Truth, nothing can move us because absolute truth never changes. Absolute truth does not shift. Gravity will always be gravity whether we believe in gravity or not. God will always be God whether our culture believes in this God or not. Nothing changes absolute truth. Lisa wrote “for something to be truth, it must be true at all times.” Jesus claimed to be the truth.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). All of these things are true or they are all lies. If Jesus is the way, then there is only one way to God because Jesus said He is the Way. There are not many roads to heaven – only one and it’s through Jesus Christ. If Jesus said He was the way, then He is also the Truth. Lisa said it a better way. “If Jesus lied and misrepresented who he was and he is but one of many ways to the Father, then he cannot be the truth.” She also stated “if he is not the truth, it is impossible for Jesus to be the life.”

We cannot believe half-truths. Actually that’s what Eve did when she believed Satan’s word instead of God’s. Satan is a distorter of truth. It’s impossible to know truth without being in God’s Word. This is the place to know God, to know Jesus and to know the Truth. Satan will deceive us all day long unless we are imbedded in the Truth. Our feet have to be firmly in the Rock. The word picture comes back into play.

Jesus said it better this way – I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). We are to be planted firmly in Him. The vine gives life to the branches. If a branch is broken, the life force has been removed. Only if the branch is grafted back in will it live again.

When I was in high school, I took horticulture for a couple of years. In that class, I learned how to graft a branch to a different tree. We used apple trees for the process of learning this procedure. We cut one branch from one tree and tied it securely to a cut branch attached to another tree. Eventually, the branches will be indistinguishable. The two will become one. The graft will be complete when the two are one and the branch begins to bear fruit. This is what Jesus said of us – those who are grafted in will become one and will bear much fruit.

We have much to learn from God’s Word. It has the absolute Truth that we need to live by. It will not be a popular decision to live this way because culture is going further from the truth each and every day. Jesus said there will only be a few who will live this way. The road is narrow and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s not that only a few are allowed to enter. Actually, God’s grace and mercy is for all people, but only a few will follow Jesus and His Way to God the Father. All are invited to follow, but only a few will take up the challenge to do so.

God’s truth does not change. It is an unmovable, invincible, irresistible and unbreakable Rock. It’s time to plant our feet securely in the Rock so that no wave will ever overtake us. Culture will change again. Life as we know it will be different tomorrow. But we can be secure in our knowledge of Truth and in this Rock.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14, 17

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32

The Right Mix

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the proof is in the pudding?” Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? A book I read recently had this phrase in one of its section headings. I can’t seem to recall the point the author was making at this time. However, when I read some Scripture this morning, this phrase came back to mind. The passage that spoke most deeply was from Galatians 5:22-23 concerning the fruit of the Spirit.

As believers, we are told we have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus at the time of our salvation. After we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are told there will be gifts that the Spirit brings with Him as He dwells in us. This fruit begins with love. Jesus’ love is planted in us as the Spirit is planted in us. The love is the seed from which all other attributes grow. The other attributes of this fruit is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For those who believe and have received the Holy Spirit, we already have this fruit in us. However, has the fruit been exhibited by our actions? This is where the phrase – the proof is in the pudding – comes to mind. We will be known by this fruit. As Peter wrote in his first letter, we are to crave spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). As we grow, we become more fluent in the language of love – we exhibit these fruit characteristics more frequently and with greater strength.

Have you noticed recently we are missing these characteristics in the world around us? None of this fruit is exhibited in great detail in the world at large. There are small instances when the goodness and kindness seeps out into the darkness. Self-control seems to be lost in this day and age. Patience? It’s been lost in this fast pace world. We want it now and we demand it now. Instant and convenient has driven patience out of style.

It’s almost like we’re afraid to show these characteristics to others because we might be seen as weak. However, we are told that true strength is to show weakness and vulnerability. The world is craving a greater vulnerability – although they would never admit it. It is said that love trumps hate. However, actions show true identity of the fruit (or lack of) that dwells within. Love is an action.

We can give cards on birthdays and anniversaries declaring our love; but if it’s not followed up by action to prove that love really exists, the paper is thrown into the dustbin of history. Marriages will fall apart – families will fall apart – society falls apart. Love is glue that holds lives together. Without it, we’re hopeless.

The world is craving spiritual milk. The world doesn’t know it, but we as believers do. As believers, we are to grow beyond milk. The writer of Hebrews wrote in the fifth chapter we are to live on the solid food of righteousness and to be able to teach others these things. The writer warns us about falling away from the teachings of righteousness. Paul also had a few things to say to the Corinthians about needing milk instead of solid food. The Corinthians were acting like babies and couldn’t handle the truth Paul was ready to feed them. He wrote he could not address them as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly (1 Corinthians 3:1).

Yes, we still have much to glean from these Scriptures. Much of our time is spent in pursuing worldliness instead of godliness and the pudding has been exhibiting the fruit of our strivings. Paul wrote to the Philippians: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Yes, we, as believers, have much to consider. The pudding has almost set. It’s time to stir the pot and get the right ingredients in the mix before it’s too late. The proof will be in the pudding. Think on these things.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

Personal Habits

This past week, I lost an important file. For two days I have tried to recover it. I tried the help desk at Microsoft and they couldn’t find it either. So I am stuck with recreating my file. I thought that would be the case, but I kept hoping the file would miraculously come back from where it’s hidden. Now it’s just a matter of sitting down to do it. Sitting down to do something when I don’t want to do it is just hard. I have days when I know I need to post a blog, but sometimes it’s just hard to just sit down and write.

It’s the motivation that’s the key to do the things I may not want to do when I know I need to do it. Why do it in the first place? Why write? Why do I care about my finances to actually create a file to track my expenditures? Because I feel it’s the right thing to do. My motivation for most things in life is because I feel like God is pleased when I do the things I need to do to stay on track. Writing helps me to focus on the things that are important and God has placed a desire in me to share what I know.

But why do I track my expenses? A few years ago, I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course. Having a financial background, I wondered what this course could teach me. I got paid to budget for large companies but I didn’t necessarily do it for myself. I pay my bills on time, what else matters?

Through the course, I realized I had a lot to be accountable for and I wasn’t very wise in my spending habits. You see, when I get stressed or lonely or have any emotional trauma, I shop. It’s my downfall. When I started the course, I realized I spent quite a bit of money on stuff. It was a fleeting feeling of satisfaction to purchase something I wanted. I didn’t recognize my habits until I started tracking my expenses. This year’s tracking file was the file I lost.

Guess what I did when I lost the file? I started shopping trying to fill a problem with some emotional comfort. The funny thing though is that I shop differently now. I no longer buy clothes, shoes or house items. I read Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven that changed my buying habits. I don’t need a lot of “stuff” anymore. You know what I buy mostly now? Supplements or food items. I love finding new products and giving them a try. My problem is more health-related and I feel like it’s a better choice, but it still is a habit that needs to be broken. I still have to rein it back in.

Do you recognize your habits? Sometimes it takes something as simple as a budget to recognize where we get off track. God has given us resources and we will be accountable to Him for how we manage those resources. Maybe spending isn’t your stumbling block like it is mine. Maybe yours is a food issue or a porn issue or sex issue or whatever it may be. Maybe when you’re lonely you do something totally different from what you normally would on a day you feel surrounded by love. What is it for you?

The first thing we have to do is notice our choices and why we’re making them. Is the motivation for a good reason or is it an emotional response? Do you eat because your hunger or just bored? There’s a lot to discern about our habits. We get in those ruts and sometimes it takes a bit of a jolt to get us out of those destructive patterns. Habits are done out of routine. We can do it without even thinking about it. That’s why a budget was the jolt I needed to get on track. It brought a few things into focus for me.

First and foremost, I am a manager of God’s resources and He always gets His portion back first. I recognize where I need to spend the money each month before I spend the first dime. When I receive money, I don’t automatically think it’s mine to spend. God first. It’s always the way to go to bring freedom to my spending habits. Freedom not in how I spend but freedom from the strongholds that make me stumble. I don’t always get it right. I am always accountable to Him in every regard to do what I am called to do – honor and glorify Him in every respect – even putting together another tracking device to control my habits so that I will not fall short (financially and spiritually). God uses the little things to remind us where we need to be. Our job is to pay attention to those little things.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13

Stand Firm

This morning’s Bible passage was from Daniel 3 concerning the three men and their fiery trial. The King had set up a golden image for everyone to worship, but the three Jewish men refused to do so. They knew that worshipping an idol was forbidden by God.

In Deuteronomy, Moses referred to God as a jealous God. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

So when the men were given the opportunity to worship the idol, they still refused even though it meant they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. They were convinced that God would rescue them, but even if God didn’t they would still stand firm in their conviction. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Conviction. Do you have that type of conviction? Even if? If everything you know to be true, do you still stand firm? Many people throughout the world have that type of conviction. They stand firm even if their lives are threatened. We are at a big disadvantage in this western world. Hard to believe, right? However, we have many things that distract us from worshiping God. Our conviction may not stand up if we are threatened.

This week, I read the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He was an investigative reporter who decided to investigate the evidence for Jesus. He was an atheist whose wife became a Christian. He wanted to disprove this Christian cult (as he considered Christianity). So for two years or so, he followed the evidence. In the end, the evidence led him to the truth. The evidence was overwhelming that this Jesus did live; He did die; and He did rise again. The evidence was enough to convince Lee that it took “more faith to maintain atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.”

Many lives have been changed throughout the centuries through this Gospel message. As an investigative journalist, Lee knew how to trace the evidence – he had seen too many trials with evidence stacked up against the defendant that conviction was just a matter of when not if. Evidence can change the whole trial. Testimony too is an important key to conviction. But evidence in the case seals the deal.

After reading Lee’s book, it just gave me a deeper feeling of gratitude for what Jesus had done for me. Jesus did suffer and die for me – and you. It was a gruesome death. It was all the wickedness poured out on Him by every lash He received – tearing skin and muscle and every fiber from his head to his knees. He took that pain and suffering on for every human heart that beats even if those hearts don’t beat for Him. His pain and suffering was enough to cover every sin committed – past, present and future. His sacrifice was enough to cleanse every heart and make every heart whole.

There was a period in my life where I doubted this Christianity thing. I saw the hypocrites in church and wondered how this Christianity was supposed to be true. A man once said to me that he didn’t want to go to heaven if the “Christians” were going to be there. I understood what he said because I had thought those same thoughts somewhere down the line of my faith journey. However, we don’t follow Christians, we follow Jesus. Christians are just a work in progress.

My faith journey didn’t stop with the doubts; it just made me want to know more. My parents and my grandparents were convinced that Jesus was who He said He was. But I couldn’t rely on their faith to help me when times got rough. I had to have my own conviction that this Jesus was the real deal.

We can’t stop at the questions and doubts. God doesn’t want us to quit searching and seeking. Actually, we are told when we search and seek, we will find when we search with our whole heart. God is after our whole heart because He is a jealous God who doesn’t want to share our hearts with any competition. Does that seem too harsh? God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us. He earned every heart by the strips on His back. It was a pretty harsh way to die. But He did it for our sakes because there is no other way to God but by the blood of Jesus.

Are you convinced about this Jesus? Do you still have doubts? Seek out the evidence. It’s never too late to find Him. And you’re never too broken to be fixed. Jesus is the real deal. I am convinced of it. I hope you are too. When the fiery trials come, let us stand firm on the foundation of Jesus.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud
and mire;
he set my feet
on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song
in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the
Lord
and put their trust
in him. Psalm 40:1-3

Headline News

Do you watch the evening news or still read newspapers? The last time I picked up a newspaper, I noticed it was very thin. Yesterday’s news just seems irrelevant for this fast-paced society now. We like instant news feeds. When an event happens, we want to know about it immediately. And we can. We have instant access. News alerts and weather alerts come directly to our phones. But what do we do with all the alerts? Do we shrug it off or get anxious about it? What do we discern from the events that are taking place today?

This next week is significant in many ways. First, Israel turns 70. Many nations have fumed about it and threatened disaster upon that tiny nation, but Israel is still here and celebrating a significant milestone. The second thing that is significant about next week is that the US is moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Life in Israel and Jerusalem may be difficult in the next few weeks or months. Time will tell how these events will shape the Middle East.

Then we have our own issues going on. Hawaii’s volcano is changing the landscape of the Big Island once again. There may be a significant explosion this week that could send boulders flying through the skies. Or ash clouds that disrupt air travel, not to mention covering the landscape and cause breathing problems for those who live nearby. It’s like a physical expression of an angry world that is just about to erupt and cause chaos in the world. I think we may have reached a boiling point – the spiritual battle has blown up in the heavenly realms and it’s going to get real very soon.

Our instant news feed may not mention these events in the coming days unless it’s a significant event – something spectacular happens. But I know with all that goes on, God is still in control no matter what. God has been setting the stage for many years and it all comes together just as He plans. We don’t know the time of all events, but God does. Do we get anxious about these things? I hope not.

We may not understand all the events taking place and their significance. However, we can know God is at work through these events. God has an agenda. Maybe we don’t like to think like that, but it’s true. God’s agenda is for the lost to be saved and for His glory to be revealed. We can be a part of this agenda. Actually, we are a major part of His agenda. We didn’t get saved just for ourselves. We get saved so that others will be saved through us when we go tell them our stories.

It seems really difficult to tell them our stories in this day and age. Many think we’re foolish. They are not ready to hear it. However, there will come a day when they are ready. When their world is in chaos and they have nowhere else to turn, they will look to us and the peace that we have. Then they will be ready.

In our age of instant access, we have about three minutes to share our story. When I was in my health coaching school, the instructor told us we needed an “elevator speech” to tell others what we do in three minutes or less. It’s the only way we can communicate these days. Sound bite news – sound bite stories. Just hit the highlights and if they are interested in our stories, they will ask us for more. If we just give them a sip of living water, they may want the whole fountain. The woman at the well did.

The story is found in John 4 tells of a woman who needed to hear the Good News. Jesus just happened to stop for a drink of water at a well while the disciples went into town for food. Jesus asked the woman who came to the well to give Him a drink of water. The woman was surprised that a man – a Jewish man – would ask her for a drink. But Jesus persisted with this woman to show her that she needed more than this physical water that doesn’t satisfy the soul. He gave her just enough information to want more. He engaged her in a way that no one ever had before and she was intrigued.

The trouble with our day and time is that we don’t stop long enough to engage others in conversation. The people around us are so thirsty and they don’t even realize it until we engage with them. The headline news may keep us from having those engaging conversations if we are anxious about our own lives. It’s when we find ourselves in a peaceful place that we notice our access to others who need our own “sound bite” good news that is worth sharing. Let’s not be anxious about anything that takes place on the world’s stage because the world is looking for peace that we have to offer through our Good News of Jesus. Let’s share it soon before the world implodes before our very eyes. The news is too good not to share!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:34-35

Family Secrets

Have you ever had a family secret you wanted to share? There is a verse in scripture that begins with “and we know.” It’s like that family secret – we know it, but others outside the family don’t know it. We know that we know somehow some way everything will come out all right because we know the family secret. All things will work together for good. But it is conditional. It’s not for everybody. The scripture (Romans 8:28) says for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. That’s us – the family of God.

Sounds a bit like and “us and them” kind of distinction, right? There is a dividing line between us and them. Right now that’s the way it is. However, it isn’t meant to stay that way. God isn’t exclusive. He is a “whosoever” kind of God. Anyone who is breathing has an opportunity to know Him and love Him. It’s the ones who are no longer breathing that have a problem that can’t be resolved if they didn’t know Him before they died. That dividing line is forever etched and can never be erased.

I know it seems rather harsh that God would allow that dividing line for eternity. God did not design eternity apart from Him. He wanted all His creation to be perfect, but sin interrupted the plan. God had a counter move that He put in place to resolve the sin issue. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not die apart from Him (John 3:16 my paraphrase). God’s character is centered on love. But He also has a character based on justice and righteousness. These characteristics cannot be separated. It is who He is. Scripture tells the story and gives us insight to God’s character through the story.

Jesus told everyone that He is the representative of God – if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father (John 14:9-10) – I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because of His words, not His actions. They saw the miracles, but they didn’t believe His words even though He backed His words with miracles.

You want to know another family secret? We are to become like Jesus. We are Jesus’ representatives while He is away. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us – the family – so that we could become more like Him. The secret is this – we are more like Jesus when we love others – the ones like us and the ones outside the family. This love changes us and changes the world. The more love we express, the more love we feel from God. God’s love for us never changes. However, we can feel more loved when we love others. It’s the way we grow more like Jesus and fulfill our purpose – to love God and to love others – the two greatest commandments.

You see, it’s what we are designed to do. There is a hole in our soul that only God can fill. When that hole is filled with His love, we express it to others. Love overflows from that place that God fills. It’s like love bursts forth from us. We can’t stop loving others when that hole is properly filled. It has to be constantly filled though. Our salvation is a one shot deal – once saved always saved (if truly saved by confessing sin and believing in God’s one and only Son who saved us from that sin) – but the hole in our soul has to be looked after. If the hole is ever filled with something that is inferior to God’s love, it shows in our actions (or lack thereof).

A couple of years ago, I heard a message from Andy Stanley that speaks to this thing called love. His message was about this statement “what does love require of me?” What’s the loving thing to do? When we are faced with a situation where we don’t know what to do, Andy said this would be a defining question to bring resolution. We should always opt for the loving thing to do.

Living this out is a lifetime project. We will never get it right all the time. But if we do it consistently, we will continue to grow in our love for God and for others. And we know that God will work it out for our good and His glory. It’s part of the plan. I have shared family secrets so that we will all share this gift we’ve been given – not because of who we are, but whose we are. We know that we know. Let’s let them in on the secret.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6

Express It Well

Many times as I listen to God’s Word through different channels, the same message will be repeated. This week’s message was about love. It seems I am in a new season of learning and I need to understand this important teaching. This same scripture came up over and over throughout the week – the lawyer questioned Jesus on the greatest commandment.

The text is found in Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34. The greatest commandment taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 says we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” A similar text is found in Luke 10:25-37 called the Parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus simplifies the message about being a good neighbor and showing mercy to the one who has fallen. In the Gospel of John 13:34-35, Jesus said this about his disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In Bob Goff’s new book Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People, he wrote that Jesus saw these two commands of loving God and loving others as “one inseparable mandate.” Bob mentions that we can’t really love God if we don’t love others that are put on our paths. God puts people in our lives to love. Difficult ones too. Bob mentions also that there is no school to learn these things expect for the next door neighbor. It’s a daily process of growing our love and expressing it well.

James MacDonald is in a sermon series called Vertical Living. His focused passage was on Matthew 22:37-40. He brought out the point that human beings are made in the image of God. The central characteristic of God is love. If we are made in His image, shouldn’t our central character be love as well? This is where sin came in and broke us. We don’t love well. However, when Jesus saves us from our sins, we are given His Spirit to help us love well. We are to grow in that capacity to love through His Spirit. We are to grow in loving God more and loving others more.

Pastor James brought out a point that I had never considered before. God made us all uniquely and we love uniquely. God doesn’t love us equally but uniquely. We are not clones in Christlikeness. We are different so why shouldn’t we love differently as well? We are to love God individually as He made us. I express my love differently than you do. I’m not a touchy, feely kind of person and you may be. But we are all supposed to grow in our capacity to love as we are made in His image. We are to express it well. It’s the only thing that will change our world.

When the Gospel message was just getting started, it was the love that the followers of Jesus showed to others that changed the world. When plagues broke out, the followers of Jesus stayed behind and cared for the sick. When babies were left on the side of the road, it was the Christ followers that picked them up and took them home as their own. They were different and people noticed. Shouldn’t it be the same today? Shouldn’t we be more like the Samaritan and show mercy?

Many have said that the Samaritan in the story is the image of Jesus and we are the ones who were beaten and left for dead. When Jesus found us in that condition, He stopped and helped us up so that we could help others in that same condition. We can love because Jesus loved us first. He came to us first. Because of His love, we too can love. We have all been given the capacity to love. We just need to demonstrate it more effectively.

Everyday we’re given an opportunity to love. This week, I didn’t do it very well. I had opportunities that I missed. I am learning to recognize these opportunities more and more but sometimes I mess up like this week. I am growing in my awareness so maybe next time I will do it better. Love is an expression. I need to express it more often in ways that it can be received more effectively. Forgive me when I don’t and show me mercy as I will do for you. Let’s get better at this, shall we? This is my season to love well. How about you?

I will leave with you the apostle Paul’s teaching on love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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