buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Jesus”

Pursuing the best life

I got a notice a couple of weeks ago that AT&T will be coming through my neighborhood to install a fiber optic line. A couple of days later, there were multiple colored lines spray painted in my yard and on the street. Then the real work began yesterday. Men were digging and drilling holes across the front of my yard. As I was watching them (for at least a few minutes at a time), I noticed there was a particular hard place for them to dig and drill. The place was near another hard place that I found a year or two after I moved into my house. The hard place was really a very large rock that extends from the front of my house to the back of the house; I assume the same rock. I didn’t know though that the rock extended to where they were digging. And apparently under my driveway. They were having a tough time making a trench under the driveway. They had to stop and readjust multiple times. They eventually got around the obstacle, but it took a couple of hours in the hot sun to get the job done.

All this was happening while I was preparing to write this blog. Before the men showed up, I had all the best intentions to write all day. I had several things to get done, but I got very distracted. I get easily distracted when it comes to my writing times. Over the last few months, it’s been a real struggle to sit down and write. It’s been very discouraging. Usually the words would flow before I sat down to write, but it’s not like that right now. However, when I sit down to write and focus on what God puts before me, the words come. The trouble isn’t writing, it’s sitting down to write.

My pastor spoke about focus this past Sunday. We are bombarded with distractions all around us. Everything can get us off track. The enemy uses the world to get our attention. The worldly things draw us away from God. Dr. Tony Evans said in a message last month that God doesn’t want us to love the world because it’s run by Satan. The world leaves God out. God will not compete with Satan. When we focus on worldly things, we worry. We place too much emphasis on things that do not matter; they are temporary and unimportant in the long run. We should look at things through an eternal lens. Will this thing matter to us in 100 years? We are after all eternal beings and will be somewhere in 100 years.

It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. Martha was upset that Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen. Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus, but Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was needed in the kitchen. But Jesus said, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT) Mary was focused on the most important thing in that moment – Jesus. Martha was distracted by her work, and she failed to see the things that truly mattered.

Jesus is the solution for our worry. When we focus on Him, He gives us a different perspective on our circumstances. Only Jesus is bigger than our worries. We should focus on the One who can fix our circumstances; who controls all things.

Jesus told us through Scripture that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (Deut 6:5). In other words, seek Him first and everything else falls into place. The Israelites were instructed to repeat this commandment over and over; to tell their children, to tie this commandment to their wrists and foreheads, and to write the commandment on their doorposts. This commandment was essential to keep God’s people focused on what mattered. When Israel forgot, they were lost and exiled. There were removed from their Promised Land because they chose idols instead of God. They lost their focus on what really mattered.

When our lives are centered on Jesus, He will lead us to the Promised Land; the best place. He doesn’t remove our circumstances, but He gives us peace in it. Jesus is our Shepherd who protects us against the enemy. He leads us to the green pastures and the cool living water to refresh our souls. Jesus said there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Like Mary, have you found it? Sit with Jesus for a while before you do anything else and let Him be your guiding light. Find eternal value that will matter in the long run.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

Reflections

This past weekend was my Mom’s birthday; the day she came into this world. However, she had a greater birthday, the day she was born into the Kingdom of God – her spiritual birth. I don’t know when that day was. I don’t think I ever heard her say. Maybe she didn’t even know it. She grew up in church. Her father was a minister of the Word so she grew up knowing about Jesus. But there has to be one day when we all put our faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior and commit to Him only. I don’t know that day for her, but I know she was committed in her relationship with Him. I know that on her birthday this past weekend, she was celebrating in heaven with Jesus – not because of her birthday but because of Jesus.

In the last days of Mom’s life, she spent them in a hospital room surrounded by her family. There were a few times when I found myself alone with her. Those times were precious. We had good conversations. But there is one conversation I wish I had with her. When she went into the hospital, she was in an emergency situation. We could see she was drifting towards heaven. The doctor would remind her to stay with us, and she would come back. The doctor told us she would be leaving soon to call everyone in that needed to be there. So we did. However, God gave us more time with her.

After she was admitted to the hospital, the next day I was alone with her for a couple of hours. I told her what a close call she had. At that moment she started thanking Jesus. I had never heard her say the things I heard her say in those moments. She was praising Jesus for something but I don’t really know why. I always assumed she was thanking Him for letting her stay here – that she was afraid to die. But I will never know because I didn’t ask her what she meant by her thanks. I never had that conversation.

We asked her pastor to have the conversation with her about her readiness for heaven to make sure she was okay before God called her home. After that conversation, the pastor reassured us that Mom knew her Savior and Lord and had trusted Him for her salvation. She was ready. My Mom’s sister told us later that Mom told the pastor that God gave her a glimpse of heaven when she was drifting in and out that first day in the hospital. I don’t know if this is true or not, but maybe that’s what she was praising Jesus for. Again, I’ll never know because I didn’t have the conversation with her.

During Mom’s life, she tried to instill in her daughters love – she showed us love in different ways. She modeled Jesus for us. She was not perfect. But she gave us an understanding of what God’s love looked like in human form – because she loved us deeply. I don’t think I returned as much love as she gave out. I asked her during one of those last conversations, if she knew how much I loved her and she said yes. So somehow in my fumbling attempts to love, she knew it. She also wanted to know if I would go back to my old way of life when she was gone (you’ll have to read my story in my book Mirror, Mirror to get the full context of my old life). The answer was no. I told her my faith and my life was in Jesus. There was no going back for me.

When Mom left us in the end, she was at peace. All the conversations were done. We gave her the release to go. And with one final breath, she was gone; at least from this present life. We know where she is right now. And for that fact, we rejoice and celebrate the coming reunion that one day we will have with her and the rest of our loved ones who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus said the way is narrow and not everyone will find it. He alone is the only way to find the door to heaven. He is the gate. He is the light. He is the truth. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection, gives us the key to heaven. We are told that when we believe this and receive that key, we will have entry into heaven. One day, every knee will bow to Jesus. Jesus said though, only the ones who know Him as Lord and Savior will be allowed in. That seems a bit narrow, doesn’t it? People scoff at that narrow-mindedness. But the only way to know you are secure in your relationship with God is through Jesus.

My prayer is that you will not wait for your final moments to know if you are secure. Get right today. Know Jesus today as Lord and Savior. Walk with the assurance that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and find peace today. My Mom’s life was a good reflection, and I hope mine will be for someone else to see Jesus in me. That’s the purpose for all of us – to honor and glorify Him every day of our lives. Let it be said of me – and you. Thank you, Jesus! I praise Your Holy Name today! Amen.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18 (MSG)

The Bridge

I had a strange dream last night. I was on a rocky shore looking inland. I needed to get inland; I couldn’t stay where I was. I started to make my way around a jetty, but it was too hard to cross. Someone came along in a boat and helped me get around it. As I looked inland, I noticed a bridge in the distance. I knew I needed to make my way to the bridge, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. From the shore, I found a path up the rocks to a door. I crossed through the door and found myself on a high ledge overlooking a rapidly flowing river. Someone behind me wanted me to go up this ledge but the way was scary. There were rock footholds along the ledge that allowed movement upward. The rocks were not stable; one fell as I grabbed hold of it. The person behind me kept telling me to go faster but I couldn’t. I was making my way to the bridge when I woke up.

Don’t you hate it when you wake up before the dream is finished? As I was in that in between state of full wakefulness, I contemplated why I needed to cross the bridge. I think it represented safety. The river was too rapid and would be my sure demise. The place where I started wasn’t any safer either. I had to keep moving toward my goal.

The dream reminded me of a way to present the Gospel message. I was told to draw a picture of two cliffs. One side is where we stand. The other side is where God stands. There is a wide crevice between us with no way to cross to God on our own. God gave us Jesus to be the bridge between us and Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). It’s only through Him that we can cross to God. There are many along our path that will point us to Jesus – the bridge. But we all have to choose to follow the narrow path to His door. He is the door we go through to eternal life. The way is always narrow, and the way is always fought with obstacles to make us want to turn back. The bridge though is what we truly want – peace is just on the other side.

I have known about Jesus all my life. I grew up in church. I had a Bible on my nightstand since I was old enough to read – even though I didn’t really read it unless prompted to do so. My Mom and Dad pointed the way to Jesus, but it was my own choice to follow Him. I haven’t always followed the path perfectly. I have strayed far and wide from it at certain times of my life. Jesus, though, always came looking for me. He never let me stay off the path for long.

I know many would say that there are more ways to heaven than going through Jesus. Many think that their good works will get them there. However, good works will be burned upon entry. If the good we do stands it will be like silver or gold; the dross will rise out of the fire and what remains will be purified. The good that stands are eternal good works – done for the “least of these.” The good we attempt on our own is like straw or hay which will be burned up upon entry. It will amount to nothing. Jesus taught that if we do good works with impure motives or acknowledge our works to others, it will not stand. The ones who do the will of God are the ones whose work will be purified through the fire.

God sent His Son to us as a babe in swaddling clothes. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:32). At the time of His anointing, He began to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover sight to the blind and to release the oppressed. He showed us the way to eternal life. Jesus calls us to follow Him. We are told to fix our eyes upon Him. When the way is rocky and the storms of life come, it’s only by His presence we will have peace to endure and finish well. Let’s not forget the reason for this season. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our bridge to eternal life.

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

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 (NLT)

It’s Inevitable

Can it get more bizarre? We have less than a week now to one of the biggest elections in my lifetime. I remember Watergate. I remember Carter’s presidency. I remember Bush/Gore election and waking up the next morning to find out who actually won. We’ve had a few twists and turns throughout our history, but really can it get any worse? But God is in control of all of it, and He is never surprised. He knows exactly what’s happening here and knows how it’s all going to turn out. I know God’s hand is in this election process. I mean, really. God has been all over this election period from day one when each candidate chose to run; and when each and every one of them dropped out until we’re left with these two.

And here we are with six days to go. On Wednesday next week, life as we know it will go on. Change will happen regardless of who is behind that desk in the oval office. Change is inevitable. We either go with it or fight it, but it’s going to happen regardless. After all, God’s Word has already told us things are going to spiral out of control in the last days. Yes, the last days have been since Jesus returned to heaven. But He told us it’s going to be like a woman in labor. The pains will come closer and closer together until that moment of birth.

I think we can all agree that the pains have grown closer and closer over the last several years. God’s word tells of the prophecies in the end, and we’re seeing a good bit of these things today. He tells us to be watchful and anticipate the end. I have struggled with the concept that all this (picture hands waving in the air) will come to an end one day. I have read Revelation – I know what it says about the end of time. But to believe that one day I could actually see it come to fruition seems a bit far-fetched. Why did He choose us to go through this period (if it truly is the end)? We could have all been born in a different century.

I don’t know when we can anticipate the rapture; before the tribulation period or after or maybe right in the middle; who knows? I do believe we’ll have to go through some times of suffering. Pruning will have to happen – to each of us personally and to the Church Body. Branches have to be pruned in order to be fruitful. These last days will be fruitful and persecution of the Church is inevitable – every branch of the church no matter where it is located needs some pruning. The American branch has been sitting pretty for a couple of centuries, but things are going to change. It has to. God foretold it in His Word. If God said it, then it will happen just as He said. Persecution is coming; it’s just a matter of time.

The thing about persecution, we are told to count it as joy when we experience suffering (James 1:2). In the early days of the church, the apostles rejoiced after being flogged because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41). In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul “boasts” about all the suffering he endured for the sake of the Gospel message. Of course, that was back in the day; surely we won’t have to endure such things, right? I cry over a stubbed toe!

I have noticed that we don’t get out of this life without some kind of suffering. If we are doing God’s work, then we will suffer in some way. Satan hates God and because of his hatred of God, he hates us. Anything Satan can do to thwart the plans of God, he’ll do it. Satan will try to take us out, but nothing can get to us unless it comes through God. God will only allow suffering for His purpose. Suffering will purify our faith. Count on it. And count it as joy because we have been counted worthy to suffer for His Name. Let it be as He said. And let us be found faithful to the tasks in this time and place for we are here for such a time as this!

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:12-14

The Letters to the Churches

I don’t know if you are as sick of this election cycle as I am, but I will be so glad when it’s all over. If I hear one more commercial about what he said or what she did – that goes for national and state too – I think I’ll just scream. I keep waiting for the truth to come out; after all, what’s done in darkness will come to light one day. Satan loves to reveal his work especially when it comes to God’s people.

There’s been too many occasions lately when I have heard of moral failures in the leadership of churches. It’s pretty common place to have moral failures in the membership; even though that shouldn’t be, but it is. But leadership has a different standard which they should be held accountable. The dark deeds always come to light. God will not let us “get away” with anything that is done in darkness when we are supposed to be of the light. He pursues us in those pig sty locations! He will set us up to get caught. Been there, done that; didn’t enjoy the consequences of my actions.

In my Bible, the chapter heading for the fifth chapter in 1 Corinthians says to “Expel the Immoral Brother!” That seems pretty harsh. Paul wrote that the Corinthian church body was not to associate with sexually immoral people (vs 9). The letter was written to the church for the church body. Paul had sharp words for those allowing such sins to remain in the church body. Paul wrote that a little yeast will work through a whole batch of dough. Sins left unchecked in the Body will have consequences and bring harm to the church’s influence.

In Galatians, we read how Paul offers the hand of reconciliation to those who are caught in sin (Galatians 6:1-5). We are told to help carry the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus tells us not to cast stones at those caught in sin. We can also fall into the same trap and need to be watchful for Satan’s attempts to harm the church through us. Paul wrote to the church body in Ephesus about living as children of the light. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3).

Paul’s writings were for a different time, right? This doesn’t apply now, does it? I believe these truths still stand, and I believe the church body will be sifted for any “weeds that have grown up in our wheat field.” If Jesus is getting ready to come back to get His bride (the church) like I hear from prophecy experts, then the church has to be ready. The church needs to be clean. And the leadership needs to be held to the certain standards set for overseers and deacons as stated by Paul in 1 Timothy 3. Paul reminds us that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

We go to the letters to the church found in Revelation, and Jesus warns these churches of the coming wrath. To the church in Ephesus, He said to repent and do the things they did at first; they had forsaken their first love – Him. He warns them if they do not repent, their lampstand will be removed (Revelation 2:4-5). To the church in Smyrna, He reminded them of the coming persecution; to stand strong in the face of it (Revelation 2:10). To the church in Pergamum, He called them to repentance because of the teaching that was allowed to entice the believers to sin. To the church of Thyatira, again this church was misled into sexual immorality. He reminded the hearers of His word that He searches hearts and minds; “hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25).

To the church in Sardis, He tells them to wake up! He tells them to obey what they have heard and repent (Revelation 3:3). To the church in Philadelphia, He tells them to hold on as well. He said He is coming soon; how much more so now than then. And to the last church letter to Laodicea, He warned them about being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). Being lukewarm is repulsive to Him. But He said to those whom He loves, He would rebuke and discipline. He stands at the door waiting. If we have ears, we need to hear and be obedient to His teachings.

Church, it’s time to wake up; it’s time to clean up our act. It’s time to turn away from the darkness and live as children of the light. Leaders of the church, you set the example we must follow. Teach the truth even if we don’t want to hear it. It’s time to thrive again. Politicians and government cannot do what the church is equipped to do – love one another and be the light to our communities. Jesus is counting on us. For those with ears, let them hear.

Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Luke 13:23-25

Three Billion

As I tended to the plants in my yard yesterday, I started reminiscing. When I was in high school, I studied horticulture in my junior and senior years. I don’t remember what began the fascination with plant life, but I do remember taking care of my Mom’s house plants after we moved into our new house back in the mid 70’s. The new house had lots of windows, and plants were positioned all around. Dad and I did the majority of the landscaping at that house, and the houses that came after it.

I once thought I would go into that field once I graduated from high school and college. However, I applied for a part-time job at a local nursery for a summer job and got turned down. And the door slammed shut on that particular interest. I didn’t consider it any further as a career.

During my life, I turned from one passion to the next. Before plants, my passion was golf. I just knew I would grow up to be a professional golfer; until we moved to that new house in the new city – far away from a golf course. I still love golf and play every chance I get.

I followed college basketball and professional football for years on end. Certain teams at different times depending on the “star” at the time. It was NC State while Coach Jimmy V was there. Miami Dolphins were my team during the mid 70’s. Washington Redskins because my Dad followed the team. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and jump on the bandwagon when seasons are going well. I used to get so worked up about winning or losing. I stopped watching a few years ago when I was convicted about all the time I wasted watching television.

Recently, I listened to David Jeremiah talked about the signs of the times. In one of his messages, he talked about apathy. He explained the Greek for the word apathy – pathos is passion and an “a” in front means it’s “anti” whatever. So for apathy, it’s a lack of passion. To me, I don’t believe we have a “lack of passion” in the world today. Just look to the sports arenas throughout the world; there’s plenty of passion. I think it’s just the wrong passion or wrongly placed passion which is the problem today.

I see Facebook posts all the time about animals in trouble and people get stirred up about abuses. Or people get worked up about injustices. I’m not saying these are a bad thing. Are we stirred up for the right reason? Or are we stirred up for the right thing? Persecution. Abortion. How about the lost people of this world who will never hear about Jesus because they are in a place that is not open to the Gospel message?

David Platt recently had a message at Passion City Church where he spoke about the three billion unreached people who will never know or hear the name Jesus in their lifetime. Spiritually speaking, we all stand condemned unless we know the Savior who sets us free from our sins. If they do not know and will never hear, then they stay condemned and will be forever apart from God. Levi Lesko said recently that “good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people do.” That can be quite shocking if someone is banking on the “good people” heaven theory (all good people will go to heaven). Or I have heard it said that all religions are the path to heaven. Well if that were the case, then Jesus didn’t have to die such a cruel death.

My pastor reminded us on Sunday, Christianity is the only religion where there is an empty grave. All the other religions, the founder has a grave where worshippers can go to pay homage to their prophet or god. But not so with Christianity; there is only an empty grave in Israel marked with a plaque. The resurrection happened and eyewitnesses wrote about the encounters with the risen Jesus. Throughout the centuries, people have died because of their passion for the risen Lord. All the disciples, except for John, were executed because of their testimony of the risen Lord.

The idea of a risen Lord should change any apathy we may have to one of complete joy and a willingness to go to the ends of the earth to tell others before it is too late. It begins with prayer for hearts to be softened for the Good News. David Platt quoted Carl Henry, an old theologian, “the Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”

This message has been one to check my heart: passion or apathy? My passion has been misplaced throughout the years. I followed many things that were not worth my attention. Let the right passion fuel my life with the right focus on what matters to God. Three billion people separated for eternity should matter to me because it matters to God.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15 (NLT)

Storm Alert

All week I have heard about this approaching storm called Matthew. Most of the spaghetti models were keeping it well out to sea. However, information changed Tuesday afternoon. I was on the rowing machine at the gym when I looked up to the television and noticed most of those spaghetti models had the storm tracking right between North and South Carolina.

I have lived in North Carolina all my life. North Carolina has had its share of dangerous storms that either make landfall or just impact the outer banks. Somehow I have managed to miss every hurricane that has come ashore. Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999 with a glancing blow to the coast but circled back to cause major flooding in the eastern portion of North Carolina. Fran was another one that devastated North Carolina in 1996. And Hugo came ashore in South Carolina but traveled right up through the central part of my state.

Every time hurricanes came through, I had either just moved out of that area or moved into the area after the storm had passed. I must say when I saw the forecast for later this week, I grew a bit concerned; will I have to ride this one out? While I was watching the television as I was rowing along, I saw this storm’s path being directed by two different weather patterns that puts the storm at a direct aim on the border. There’s a low dropping from the northwest to arrive around Friday and a high that will be circulating in the Atlantic Ocean that will cause a funnel to develop right toward the border of our two great states. The forecast could change at any time. Only God knows the track it will take.

On Monday morning, I read in Matthew 8 about Jesus calming the storm with His spoken word. The disciples were amazed that even the wind and waves obeyed Him (8:27). The storm came upon them unexpectedly. Most of these men were fishermen who had weathered many a storm. But this time, Jesus was in the boat. The waves were sweeping over the boat. They were afraid of drowning. I am not a swimmer, so I would be terrified too. When they woke Jesus, He questioned their faith. What? Why their faith?

I believe the storms in our lives are about our faith. There is a purpose to the storms we face. Storms help us grow closer to Jesus. Those are the times we reach out to Him and ask for a calming presence to fill us so that we can ride it out. He will see us to the other side of it. We are not meant to stay in the storm – we are meant to go through it with Jesus.

James MacDonald’s message from this past weekend was about the prayer of faith. He said “faith is believing in the Word of God and acting upon it, no matter how I feel, because God promises a good result.” His message was from Mark 5:21-43 – one of my favorite passages. Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter and a woman with a bleeding problem. Both of these healing accounts were brought to Jesus from a kneeling position. Jairus fell at His feet and pleaded earnestly with Him (5:22-23). Jesus noticed healing power had left Him; He searched for the one who had been healed. The woman fell at his feet trembling with fear and told Him the whole truth (5:33).

I believe this is significant to us when we are in those storms in life. We can look to the One who calms the storms with just a spoken word. He may not take us out of the storm but will see us through it. We might not get an immediate healing or our loved one released from death. But we can always take it up with Jesus from a humble position knowing He has the answer we seek. Pastor James commented that “Delay is not a denial – we pray God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time.” His main point was this: “Faith that acts, asks, and endures – get’s answered.” Maybe our faith is like the disciples’ faith in that boat – it’s a little small; take it to Him and don’t be afraid, just believe. Ignore the facts; face the truth; Jesus is our answer.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:2-3 (NLT)

The Anchor

As I was walking up the sidewalk to my church building on Sunday, I noticed two women coming out of the first gathering. They were talking with one another in a different language. Isn’t it amazing that we can all gather together no matter the language barrier and worship the same God? No matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, the culture we grew up in – God is God of all. He knows every one’s name; knows every one’s heart and He loves us anyway! God’s family is so diverse, and we can be a part of it. My local church body represents about eleven different nations under one roof. I find that amazing.

Contrast the unity I experienced on Sunday with the divisive experience we are having in this country at this moment in time. My perspective will be totally different than one whose skin is darker than mine. I cannot walk in their shoes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have empathy and compassion for their struggles. I wish there wasn’t a struggle. I wish we could live like we’re supposed to live – as one who loves another – not as tolerant people, but ones who truly love one another and even love all our differences. Differences make the world go round. If we were all the same, how boring would that be? Yet, we were all made differently AND all made in the image of God.

It’s interesting that this week of all weeks I was studying “shoes of peace” in the Armor of God study. The week that has been without peace shows our greatest need of peace. But it will not come at the expense of removing guns from the hands of individuals – if one wants to kill, they can find any method available to do the job – sure guns are the most available and impersonal way of killing; but there has to be another way to solve the problem. The very simplistic answer is Jesus. He is the only peace we’ll find in the craziness of this world. And Scripture tells us, it’s going to get worse not better. There doesn’t seem to be much hope in the future, does it?

In Andy Stanley’s message on Sunday – actually it was an interview of sorts – he made the comment about the diversity in the early church. For the first twenty years, the early church dealt with a great deal of racial tension. Between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freed men, and then throw women in the mix; it was just all kinds of tension going on. Jews did not associate with Gentiles on any level. The women were considered second class citizens. Before the early church even got off to a running start, God had to deal with the racial tensions, or else the movement would have fizzled from the start. Jesus elevated everyone to the same level.

Jesus had already addressed the idea of “clean and unclean” in a message to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were concerned with the disciples’ unsanitary eating habits. Jesus said it wasn’t what was on the outside that made a person unclean but it’s the heart that matters. The Pharisees had a heart problem, and it would keep them out of the Kingdom of God.

The heart is still the problem today. Nothing has changed much in 2000 years – actually since the beginning of time. We still have issues that need to be resolved; not through violence but through love. But nothing will change unless hearts are turned toward Jesus. Jesus told His followers that we will have trials and sorrows; it’s part of life. However, He came to give us a new life and a new hope. He is the only one who can give us peace. We cannot have peace of God if we do not have peace with God.

Apostle Paul likened peace to the shoes of a soldier. A Roman soldier wore sandals with knobs. It helped the soldier stand firm in the face of the enemy. Peace is our anchor; it holds us firmly in place when the craziness of the world around us feels off kilter. Jesus is the answer we seek to overcome the strife we find in this current world. He is our anchor in the storm. Peace is available for every individual who calls upon the name of Jesus. He provides what we need to calm the storms in our lives.

I wish we could all live in harmony now, but I know it is impossible through our own human effort. But what’s impossible for us to do, God makes all things possible. One day it will be different. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. One day it will be realized. One day all things will be made new. That’s the hope of our future.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

Fan the Flame

I think I’m in a rut. My routine is pretty set day in and day out. Even spiritually speaking, I think I’m in a rut. I haven’t felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit in a while. Did I move off the mark? Did my anchor slip? I think I just lost focus. I took my eyes off of Jesus. My fascination has been on the signs and wonders of what’s going on in the world. I do believe we are seeing the signs of the last days. This is not to say that Jesus is coming back in the next year or ten. That time is set by God. But I do believe He is coming soon. Maybe I’ll see it in my lifetime, maybe not.

But I am struggling with what to do. I should be focused on Jesus’ business – making the Kingdom known on earth before He parts the skies. At that point, the decision is made on who will be joining Him in the clouds. The rest will deal with the judgment that will come. (I’m a pre-trib girl.)

On Sunday, the pastor said that we should be living each day like it’s our last. Whether it’s because Jesus will come that day or we’ll be called to our heavenly home. To live like that, we’ll do everything necessary to live a fulfilled life. We’ll do what matters most and let the trivial things go. We’ll reach out to those on our path who needs something that we can fulfill.

Louie Giglio said in his Sunday message that we are to have an outward focus. We are the solution to the world. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and He uses us to be the solution. It’s a reminder that we are the light. We are not to keep Jesus a secret. His is not a secret kingdom with a secret password to enter. The door is open to anyone who comes and knocks.

Over the last couple of nights, I have been listening to Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live “Audacious” message from last year’s simulcast – it’s now on TBN and on demand. The message is about being audacious – having boldness beyond normal. We are called to be mighty for the Lord. We are not supposed to keep it to ourselves. The story is meant to be shared.

Jesus was a storyteller. Crowds followed Him to hear the stories and to be healed. They came to see Him do miracles. He taught them about the Kingdom of God through stories. Most didn’t get it. Their religiosity got in the way. They were being entertained not enlightened. But the children came, and it had nothing to do with what Jesus could do for them. The children felt the love Jesus had for them. They instinctively knew Jesus loved them. I think as adults we have become cynical to love. We don’t naturally feel the love and want to give it to others. I guess that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to help us in this regard. It doesn’t come natural to us; it’s a supernatural act.

In Beth’s book Audacious she wrote about falling in love with Jesus. Something has to compel us to do something. The love of Jesus in us will compel us to be bold in His name and for His glory. I made a note from the simulcast – we need to look for this one thing that will drive us for the rest of our lives. I think it’s the love that will drive us. Beth wrote about Peter’s encounter with Jesus on the beach after His resurrection. She asked the reader – Do you love Jesus? I mean, do you really love Jesus? Really, do you love Jesus? It’s not an automatic reply. It’s a think about it moment. Do we long to be in His word? Are we excited to spend time with Him? Do we bounce out of bed in the morning and rush to set down with Him for a morning chat? I can’t say that this is always my response.

When we think about loving someone, it’s a feeling but also an action. I have never known the love of a husband/wife scenario. I can imagine though the “swept off the feet” moments of romance that led to the marriage proposal. The thrill of the chase. The moments when passion over takes you, and you would do anything for your future mate. I can’t say that is the case with my relationship with Jesus. But it should be.

We should look for the romance with Jesus – we should ask for it. It should make a big difference in our lives. Religiosity should not get in our way to love Jesus and live for Jesus. There is too much at stake; time is short. We need the boldness for our lights to shine in this dark world. Ask the Holy Spirit to fan the flame of what has been entrusted in us. Let’s do it now and keep asking until boredom is replaced with passion to compel us to live each day to the fullest for His glory! Amen!

This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Blindsided

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. It’s a game played out on a remote island somewhere far away. It starts with 18 people of different backgrounds with different life skills and different game skills. The players have to outlast and outplay the others to remain on the island and ultimately become the sole survivor (and the million dollar winner). Each episode ends with a person voted out of the game. The one voted out can be blindsided by the vote. The people they thought were their alliance will turn against them; they don’t see it coming, and they are voted out of the game. No more chances to play; no more chances for the million dollar prize – they go home.

It’s interesting to see the dynamics shift. Bonds are formed. Alliances are made. You place great confidence in the ones who you think will take you to the end. But in the end, all the people are voted out of the game except for the one who will take home the prize. There is always a celebration at the end of the game. Everyone comes together to celebrate the winner. It’s a great game, and everybody on the show recognizes it’s just a game.

But what happens when we are blindsided by life? My next door neighbor was blindsided yesterday. They didn’t see it coming. They moved in about a year and a half ago. They were excited to have a new house. I remember the wife’s enthusiasm as they moved in and got settled. They have a small son. He’s too young to know what’s going on in the house today.

You see, about six months after they moved in, the husband was diagnosed with cancer. He did all the treatments and thought he beat it. It came back; and as cancer does, it came back in multiple places. They gave him about six to nine months until the cancer would take his life. He would be voted out of this game called life. He would exit the playing field. This morning, the wife and the son will wake up to a new chapter in their lives.

I watched a program last night on John Paul Jackson on Daystar. He too had a battle with cancer. I watched the program as he talked about beating the cancer. He talked about the time he discovered the cancer. He had been a runner and found the tumor one day while he was running. It came out of nowhere. Blindsided. He was very encouraging as he talked about how he trusted God through it all. God would see him through it.

At the end of the program, I waited to see when the program was originally on. It was dated 2014. I was hoping for a more current date thinking that maybe I had heard wrong. You see, I found out last year, John Paul Jackson lost the battle and died. I assume the cancer came back, and it beat him. We never know when circumstances will turn against us; when we will be blindsided by a diagnosis or the death of a loved one or anything else that knocks us down. But we have a loving Father who knows everything from the very first breath to the very last, and we can trust him to see us through each and every day – no matter what. Even if the diagnosis comes and the outcome isn’t good, God has a plan to get us to the other side of it. It’s a matter of trusting in the One who knows it all.

John Paul Jackson had a celebration in the end. When the battle ended, there was a celebration in heaven when he walked through those pearly gates. He received the greatest prize ever – a life with Jesus for eternity. I don’t know about my neighbor’s outcome. I don’t know where he stood with Jesus. I hope the prayers I offered on his behalf were answered, but I won’t know it until I go home myself.

We will all face those moments when we will be blindsided. There will be a moment in time when we don’t see it coming. Our friends and family can surround us, but it’s a moment when the only one you can have confidence in is the One who knows how the game will end. Our loving Father will never leave us or forsake us. He is trustworthy to get us to the end. He is also the greatest prize we could ever hope for. And the celebration that we receive will be amazing if we endure to the end.

A new chapter begins as the old one closes. My prayers will shift now to the wife and son who are beginning again this morning. The birds are singing. The trash has to be taken out. The lawn needs to be mowed. Life still goes on even when we have been blindsided. The moment comes when we have to decide to get up and trust God to work it out in the end. And He will because that’s what He does. Trust Him.

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

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