buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Family of God”

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

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Broken Walls

Hand me the hammer, please. It’s time to break down the walls. Walls need to be broken down that keep us from others. I am the world’s worst about keeping to myself; I don’t really like to let people in because then they would know the real me. I was convicted over the weekend that it’s time to be real. I do feel that time is moving quickly to that point – whether Jesus comes back or something else huge that will occur – that will change everything. I don’t know what God has in store, but something major is brewing. God is giving us warnings that are escalating beyond a normal pattern. God frequently works in cycles, and I believe we are coming to another major end of a cycle. With conviction, I realized that the book that God called me to write needs to be done very soon. In it, I share my testimony. As I was writing it over the last few years, I had to come to grips with many issues that had been hidden from my view. I had some blind spots that needed to be revealed. In sharing my testimony, I am letting others see things as they are (or were).

Walls do nothing but keep others out and ourselves in. There is no communication between walls. As I have observed the Body of Christ, as we gather during our worship times, we have isolated ourselves from those who really need to see Jesus. We have built walls that show the world a different picture than what the Bible has given to us as an example. The first believers were living life together as a family – day in and day out. Like most families, they saw each others mess. Yet, they loved one another no matter the mess. They showed love to those around them. Outsiders took notice that the Jesus followers were different. They were overpowering non-believers with love and that love grew the church body. Jesus followers were giving all they had to take care of others. They were on mission to be a disciple who made other disciples.

Paul had to call out one church that wasn’t living as they should as followers of Jesus. Paul wrote to the Body in Corinth about a problem. The people of God in that area were not acting in love, and it was an issue that needed to be addressed (1 Corinthians 6:8-11). We all have sins of our past. Some of those sins keep us in a place of shame. However, when we have been forgiven, those sins are no longer remembered – they are forgotten by a gracious God. We cannot hold the past against anyone. We all have fallen short of living a life of righteousness. We as the Body have an obligation to break down the walls that separate us from the outside world. We are told to go out in the world, but don’t become like the world. We are supposed to be different; we would rather be like everyone else. We are told to love one another so that we can show the world the difference in our “family.”

I have often wondered what it would have been like to live in the time of great revivals; where record numbers were coming to Christ. I wondered what it was like for those early disciples who were so eager to share the story of how Jesus died, but then three days later, he arose from the grave! People saw Him and touched Him. They were eyewitnesses to the greatest event in history. I wonder now, what this next event that God has in mind. We may be in for a time of another great revival. Maybe God wants to use us to lead the way. But it’s going to take a hammer to break down those walls that keep us from reaching out. It’s time to be more like the first century church – taking care of one another and showing love to those outside the family. It’s time to meet the needs of those around us and tell others what Jesus has done for us. It’s time to be real and authentic. We will need to be the light to those who are still experiencing the darkness. When the walls are broken down, the light can finally be seen!

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)

Building a Better Relationship

Relationships are hard to develop and keep in this day and time. We are even busier than ever before. Our culture isn’t conducive to form lasting relationships either – we like our independence and we tend to move about. Last week, I mentioned that we have to be intentional about listening to those around us. But it is also about being intentional about our relationships. There is a spiritual battlefield that is going on around us to keep us from developing true friendships. I believe one of our enemy’s schemes is to drive a wedge in our relationships. The family is especially important to God. And the family has been under attack for the last few years. God put relationships in the Bible in the very beginning. It’s His design for us to depend on one another.

God introduced Adam and Eve to us in the very beginning of His Word. He designed them to need one another but also to have a relationship with Him. God walked with them in the garden. Can you imagine? What a blessing to have that kind of intimate conversation with God! Yet, we are given that opportunity too. But do we take advantage of our opportunity to have a conversation with the living God – Creator of the Universe and everything in it? Again, we have to be intentional about this relationship. We have to spend time listening to His voice. But distractions (one of the enemy’s greatest tools) keep us from hearing God’s whisper.

I have been blessed over these last four years to have the time to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. But I still have trouble hearing from Him at times. Or if I hear, I start to doubt what He’s saying. Doubt creeps in – especially when I start to act in faith when my toe is touching water! The enemy is hard at work. This weekend is a case in point. I began to make progress in a decision that I had to make. I believe I heard it was time to move forward with a new opportunity. I had a crisis of belief Sunday when I heard a series of messages that made me take my toe out of the water and pause long enough to doubt I heard correctly. The first message was to “wait on God.” The second message was not to “settle for less” and the third was to “not to let doubt take us out.”

Andy Stanley mentioned in his message that Peter started to doubt when he thought this whole “walk on water” thing wouldn’t work out. Each message was really about trusting God. The messages mean that we have to have a right relationship with Jesus in order to hear His voice. Scriptures tell us that Jesus’ followers know His voice. He is depicted as the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. The sheep are pretty dumb animals and are prone to wander in search of another blade of grass to eat. The shepherd keeps his eyes on his sheep and will move them to the place of greener grass and fresh water. I don’t want to be a sheep that is in search of the blade of grass that is in the wrong pasture. I want the right pasture, and I want it at the right time. There is a time to settle in a pasture and a time to move on.

My pastor said that God offers a better plan than what we could choose for ourselves. Andy Stanley says that “You’ll never know what God might have done if we allow our doubt to take us out.” The disciples had no idea what was in store for them when they continued to keep walking the path Jesus set before them. When we surrender to the path, God will do amazing things through us too. It takes intentional time with Jesus and with others to be the instruments that God wants us to be. It is not meant for us to walk the path alone. We are stronger together as a community of believers who listen and are active in our faith walk. One step at a time.

God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus! Romans 15:5-6 (The Message)

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