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Archive for the tag “Love God”

Challenging Message

This week has been all about the challenge that I heard from two different messages – becoming more like Jesus. One of the greatest characteristics of Jesus was His love. He loved everyone – even the Pharisees, who were really difficult to love in my estimation. The underlying theme of the Bible is love. God so loved the world that He sent His Son (John 3:16). God so wanted people to have a relationship with Him from the very beginning that after the fall of man; God called a man, Abraham, out of a nation (Ur) to become a nation (Israel) so that through Abraham God’s Son would come. God’s plan in the very beginning of time was to walk with us – to have a relationship with His creation (us). That plan has never changed, but the fall of man changed how that could happen.

Dr. Tony Evans has a message series going right now called the Jesus Challenge, which looks at the churches found in Revelation. The first message was on the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). Jesus praised the church body found in Ephesus of all the good they were doing; however, there was one thing that Jesus found that needed to be corrected – they forgot their first love. They were doing everything right except they forgot to love God first and let everything flow from that love. They were busy doing but did not put God first. God is not a god of second place. God is first in everything. It is written in Exodus 20:5 that He is a jealous God and will not tolerate our affections for another god in our lives. He wants no competition for first place.

Well all of that is real easy to write or to say; but doing is a whole lot harder. I think the real problem in doing all that we are called to do – love everyone (even the difficult ones), put God first – is because we walk in the flesh and not in the spirit. Scripture tells us that when we become born again, we are born in the spirit. Since we are now born in the Spirit, the spirit should be in control of us. If Jesus’ Spirit who is just like Him lives in us, then Jesus should be living through us; which means that we should be able to love like He did. But why aren’t we doing it? Why are we not loving like we should? Because our flesh is in control and that’s just wrong as followers of Jesus.

Now you know why the challenge has fallen on me hard. This walking in the spirit as we are called to do is just hard when it should be the easiest thing for us to do. Just let Jesus control the wheel as someone once sang. But we all like control. Jesus is going to get all up in our business and clean out some things that we think is important to our lives. But if Jesus is in control, He is going to better our lives. We need to grasp that idea. It might be difficult to let go, but that’s okay, He’s got this! It would serve us well if we just let Him have His way in us.

When I got up on Sunday, I changed my routine. When I changed my routine, I missed my quiet time with my Lord. I completely forgot it. I did the same thing one morning while I was on vacation. It’s been a long time since that happened. Now I am questioning if my quiet time is just routine. It is just a routine that I do in the mornings, something I check off that I have done and fulfilled my obligation. But that’s not what God wants from us. Like the church at Ephesus, tradition and routine is not what God wants – He wants our hearts to be in it. He wants us to think of Him first, not as an obligation, but because He is our Daddy.

I know that may sound a bit childish to call Him Daddy, but that’s what we do here in the south – our loving fathers are daddies here. And we are told to come to Him like a child. Jesus called God the Father, Abba which means daddy. We are to have that childlike faith in Him. Believe He has the best for us and loves us unconditionally. If we don’t have good examples of a loving father, it may be hard for some of us to believe that about God. It’s not about the routine of joining Him in quiet time. It’s about the relationship with Him as our Daddy. Daddy is first and foremost. And His Son is to have control of our lives. Easy enough, right?

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:10-12 (NLT)

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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)

David’s Heart

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a video on Facebook of a four-year old worship leader. He was quite cute. The boy was on Steve Harvey’s show Little Big Shots (I think that’s the name). Soon after that I heard a couple of messages about worship. All this has me thinking about worship, and my effort to honor and glorify God through my worship time. God created us to worship. It’s naturally in us to worship.

One pastor mentioned that our worship is not about us but about God. We get it all wrong when we think we’re supposed to “get something” out of our Sunday morning “service” – it’s all about what we feel as we listen to the music or hear the word preached – did it move us? Instead, we should be more concerned with how we are worshiping – is our heart in it? Is our focus on God? Is the heart moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit? Do we feel an overflow coming from our hearts?

Another message focused on worship as a lifestyle. Worship is more than just singing. Worship is really living our lives in response to who God is and what He has done. Everything that we do can be a way of worshipping God. When we live our lives, fulfilling our God-designed destiny with the gifts and talents He has given us; we worship Him through our surrender lives. Worship is so much more than a Sunday morning experience. We glorify and honor God because of who He is and what He’s done. Having a life of worship makes me think of King David. He modeled the life of worship.

Whenever David poured out his heart to God, David either started the Psalm with praise or ended the Psalm with praise or both. He never let the opportunity pass without offering praise to God. He was after all the man after God’s own heart. But David was not perfect – far from it. Yet, God was pleased with David because of David’s heart. David pursued God with all his heart (as we all should). We are told in Deuteronomy 6:5, to love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the heart of worship. When Jesus was questioned, which is the greatest commandment? He replied with the passage from Deuteronomy 6:5.

Our desire is to worship. Sometimes though, we get it wrong. Our hearts chase after the wrong thing. It’s so easy to do in this day and age. We put too much emphasis on people or things. Sports teams, sports stars, movie stars, husbands, wives, children, etc. We fail to understand people and things will always let us down. Worship is said to come from the term “worth ship” – there is only One who is worth worshipping.

I remember a time in my childhood when my grandparents took me to a church conference. While everyone was singing, men and women were running around the room praising God. It’s a very vivid memory; and at the time, scared me a bit. I remember asking my Grandmother “what’s wrong with that man?” as an older man dressed in white clothes ran down the aisle beside us. She reassured me with a pat on the leg and everything was alright.

My time of worship is nothing like that. Sometimes I think of that demonstration and wonder why I can’t be as enthusiastic as that man? Not that I would get up and run around a room. But I should in my heart! I should have a heart that would chase God around the room! What would our lives look like if we had that kind of passion for God?

It reminds me of the passage in 1 Chronicles 15 where David is escorting the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. As the procession enters the City of David (Jerusalem), David skipped about and was full of joy. His wife Michal, looked on him with contempt for his undignified demonstration. David replied to Michal (found in 2 Samuel 6:21) that he was dancing before the Lord because of what the Lord had done for him. The Lord had given David a promise. The Lord had promised that a forever king would come through his line. And David believed God’s promise. And it was eventually fulfilled through Jesus Christ – the promised heir in the forever Kingdom.

We might not have a promise as great as the promise given to David, but God is faithful in all His promises – great and small. We can count on God. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of our worship. He will never fail us. He is trustworthy. Our lives are a reflection of what we believe about God. What we do with those promises, how we live in reference to our beliefs; this is truly our worship as we respond to who God is and what He has done. Worship is an overflow of the heart. Just like David, we can be men and women after God’s heart. Chase Him down!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.

Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;

rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him. 1 Chronicles 16:8-11 (NLT)

Proper Understanding

Question: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I read that in a book by John Piper (Let the Nations Be Glad) yesterday morning. I have heard this saying some time ago but it hit me fresh again as I began to read in chapter one. In the first chapter, John Piper gives the case of God’s glory as the foundation for our worship. Scripture after scripture, he reminds the reader that throughout the Bible it’s about God’s glory. He said that God’s goal is “to uphold and display the glory of his name.” I think we’ve forgotten how to truly be in awe of God.

In generations past, they had a different view of God. I think it’s been just a century of prosperity that we have displaced God’s glory with our own. We worship the wrong things and the wrong people. We truly don’t worship God in the manner we should. I witness the subdued attitude when we gather together to worship and notice the difference at a basketball or football game. I’m no better at worship either. There may be a time or two of hand-raising and a few tears, but are our hearts truly worshipping God in the right manner?

In our prosperity, we’ve lost something fundamental in our view of God. Most of us can get by without God. We don’t need Him as society once did. Our needs are met without much thought to how we get what we have – we’ve earned it ourselves. We’ve done it all ourselves or at least that’s the perception. That was the way I thought for many of my early career years. Everything though comes from God. We get nothing on our own. It’s all by the grace of God.

There is an identity crisis in this land. We don’t know who we are, and we have no idea who God truly is. First, if Jesus is our Lord and Savior; then we have a new identity. We have been adopted into God’s family. We are heirs with Christ. We have His righteousness. Jesus traded our filthy rags for His cloak of righteousness. We have been set free from the bondage of sin. We are secure in our knowledge of our eternal home. Jesus provided our new identity by His death and resurrection. Not because of our goodness, but because of His.

There isn’t anything that we could have done to make our place secure; it’s a gift. We have a position in God’s family based on Jesus and not our performance. There is nothing we can do to earn His favor. And in this gift of salvation, we are complete; we lack nothing. Complete but unfinished. There is work that still needs to be done in us. Every now and then, I get a thought of what I could have been if not for the fact that Jesus pursued me and changed my life. Those are the times when I truly worship God.

Every now and then, I also get a glimpse of the greatness and glory of God. Louie Giglio has a message on YouTube called Indescribable. I found it last week and watched the different pictures of the universe – the vastness, the beautiful images of the known universe – flash on the screen. He said that we should remember that God holds all of it in His hands. We are this one little speck on this one little planet in the vastness of what God has made. Pastor Louie said that he wasn’t trying to make us feel small, but to remind us that we are small. And yet, God watches over us with the love of a Father. His eye is on us.

Paul wrote out a prayer for the saints in Ephesus to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ; to know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled with the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18,19). I think we miss this understanding. Maybe its head knowledge, but I don’t think we have grasped the heart knowledge of how true this really is. When we finally have a proper understanding of who God is and what He has done, then I think we will truly worship Him in the proper manner. God is Creator – the known universe testifies to His glory. God has created us for a personal relationship with Him that we may glorify Him and worship Him – the one true God. We are made in His likeness so that we can glorify Him through our lives.

Do you understand who you are and your purpose? I think I am finally coming to my own revelation. I hope you do as well. Let it be said of us – we know how to worship God because of our love for Him.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

The Missing Link

Over the weekend, I heard a message that has been marinating in my spirit. Louie Giglio spoke about living with purpose. He mentioned it was more important to live for significance than living for success. Success is measurable and finite, but significance lasts for eternity.

There was an accident in the Atlanta area that killed four young college girls. Louie’s message was about this accident. One of the families was directly linked to his church. The family he knew, the daughter had lived a life of significance in the time she had on earth – even though it was considered “short” in terms of the human experience. Louie pointed out that the time she had on earth in spiritual terms had a greater impact than anyone who had lived a long human experience with very little spiritual impact.

I have been thinking of that. In just another week or so, I will have another birthday. I am coming to terms that I may be out of the middle ground and more toward the end zone. If Jesus doesn’t come back, maybe I’ll have another thirty years or so. I hope living well will get me another five or ten years more. But if I am not living well at that age, I would rather be with Jesus than dwelling in this decaying, earthly body. After considering the message, I have a new end game plan. It’s not to live well in human experience; my goal is to live a life of spiritual significance through the human experience in the time that I have left. There’s just one problem with that. I don’t know how.

I picked up Beth Moore’s new book called Audacious. I started reading it Monday night. The first chapter was on vision. Oh Lord, not another book about vision! I have been searching for vision for years, and I still don’t have a clue. The chapter I read last night floored me. It may be the missing link to the life of significance. The chapter was on Peter and Jesus’ interaction on the beach after Jesus’ resurrection. The question “Do you love me?” is the title of this chapter, and it’s the question Beth posed to the reader about the relationship we have with Jesus. Can we honestly say we love Jesus?

The last few weeks, I have been considering this love angle. The term we use for love has been watered down. Sure I love Him. But do I have a passionate, deep abiding kind of love? Do I have a love like one who falls in love in a new relationship? Jesus called out the ones in Revelation to the church in Ephesus who had forsaken their first love (Revelation 2:4). He called out those who were lukewarm toward Him in Revelation 3. The church at Laodicea were rich in human terms but were spiritually poor. To the ones in Sardis, He issued a “wake up” call. To the church in Philadelphia, He said He opened a door no one can close. To those who overcome, He will give righteous clothes to wear; a pillar in His temple; a place on the throne with Him. It is a matter of opening our hearts to Him and to fall back in love with Him.

Full disclosure: I have never been in love with anyone. I have been in lust many times, but that’s a totally different feeling. I haven’t been married. I don’t have children. I have parents and sisters whom I love but a passionate love, no. Would I give my life for them, yes – I think I would; I hope I would – it’s never come up though; it’s an untested theory. But this Jesus thing is an issue. It’s the missing link to my passionate, significant life. It’s the warning from Revelation that I have to take to heart. Jesus told all the churches in Revelation to have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The church and Jesus is represented by a marriage. The church is the bride; Jesus is the groom. We are to love like that. We are to fall in love with Him like a future wife falls for the future husband. It’s the deep abiding love like one who can’t stand to be away from the love of their life. It’s a love that aches when they are apart. Do you love Jesus like that? My heart has been stirred to love like that. Has yours? Beth says it will propel us toward the vision. It’s the missing link to the life of significance. Love changes everything.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NLT)

Man in the Road

Jesus told a parable concerning a man who fell into hands of robbers (found in Luke 10). The expert in the Law asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus proceeded to tell a parable, a story about a man, a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. I have always heard that we are to be like the Samaritan, to be a good neighbor. But what if we are the man in the road? We are the one who has been beaten and left for dead. Others have come by, but only one has come to have mercy on us. Jesus is represented as the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan’s heart went out to the one who was left for dead. He saw the man and took pity on him. He stopped to help him. He bandaged wounds and paid the price so that the man could get well.

I’ve heard this story so many times. The focus though has been on the Samaritan. We are to do as the Samaritan. However, the question was “what must be done to inherit eternal life,” the man did nothing to earn eternal life. He just lay there, beaten and broken. The Samaritan did all the work and paid the price. The man received the gift that was freely given. The true picture of Jesus – we do nothing to earn salvation. We wait on someone who can bind our wounds and heal us. We wait on someone to pay the price. That’s Jesus. There is nothing else that needs to be done because He said from the cross “it is finished!”

This message was shared from North Point Community Church. As I contemplated the message, I realized many times I always put myself in the wrong role of the story. It is first and foremost about Jesus. We just happen to be the recipient of the grace that He gives freely. The story will always be about Him. Everything in the Bible is about Him. We are to have a heart like His. He came to live within us when we received the gift of mercy, when He came to fix our brokenness, when He paid the price of our sins. All we have to do is just let Him in and do the work He wants to do in us and through us. Nothing else matters but Jesus. Once we get the right perspective, everything changes.

I keep thinking I am so good, but every time I think that I get the realization there is nothing good in me except Jesus. When I was on the road, I was beaten and broken. There was nothing I could ever do to make myself well. Jesus saved me from myself. The answer the expert was seeking was Jesus, he just didn’t get it. The expert quoted the right Law; he knew the right answer, but his heart was far from the truth of the Law. I can have the same attitude, I know what Scripture says, but I fail to put those things into practice. Jesus says to “Go and do likewise.” Love is an action verb. I have been bandaged and healed; now it’s time to help the others who are in the road to find the Good Samaritan.

He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.“

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:27-28

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