buildingbodies4christ

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Archive for the tag “Love one another”

For This Reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is Still in Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plaque on the Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oneness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a Hair Cut

The other day, I had a haircut. Nothing unusual about having my hair cut; I do it every five weeks. However, I usually tell my stylist to continue doing the same thing every time. It’s been styled this way for a long time. But when I went in the other day, I wanted something different. I wanted some layers. She asked how many layers? “No idea, so do what you think is best” was my reply. She proceeded to cut. As we normally do, we chatted all the while she chopped away. I glanced at the mirror when she was done, thanked her, paid her and left for the gym.

After I got home and showered, I finally took a look at my new haircut. This may sound strange, but I finally looked like myself. I felt like myself. My new haircut was really the old me coming back to life. Strange, I know. A haircut is just a haircut. Right?

There are many things we use to cover ourselves besides clothes. I don’t think I was using my previous haircut to cover anything, but it’s just strange how different I felt with the new do. However, I do realize now that I had let others tell me how they thought I should wear my hair. Have it this length, no bangs, let it fall around my face, etc. I realized now, that’s not me. I need to be authentic to who I am – who God created me to be.

I know, it’s just hair. But it says a lot about my personality. I want to please others more than I want to please myself (or God). I let others tell me how to act, what to wear, how to walk. But that’s not me. It may have been for the best of intentions, but I have to be who God created me to be.

I have not given myself over to doing anything outside of God’s will. That’s really not who God created me to be. But I do want to be authentic to my true self. What’s that look like for me? I don’t know. I need to discover who I am without input from others – only God gets to be the voice defining me. God says quite a bit in His Word about our characters. But He gives us leeway on how that looks for us based on our gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, etc. What really matters is that we love God more than anything else and love others as much as we love ourselves – everything else is gray matter.

Danielle Strickland said recently “love brings us back to ourselves.” It’s a sobering, reclaiming, waking moment when God plants His love on us, like a kiss from heaven. He demonstrated His love for us by His Son Jesus. These are the weeks when we focus on Jesus’ birth. This is the time we can demonstrate more love for others to tell them this mysterious love that changes things.

Danielle mentioned in her talk about how the brain responds when we are in love. There are three areas that “light up” when we’re in love – pleasure (joy), risk and attachment. In Hebrews 12:12 it says it was for Jesus’ joy, He endured the cross for us. He loved us so much that He put everything on the line for us. God risked His Son for us. Jesus endured the shame for us. Our response to Him? We are to love Him like that.

For our greatest pleasure, we are to risk everything for Him. We are to abide in Him as Jesus abides in His Father. We are to be in love with Jesus. This type of love brings us back to ourselves – this love makes us who we are supposed to be. It’s an enveloping, mind-bending, arm-wrapping love that transcends understanding that brings us back to ourselves. It’s who we are meant to be and can change everything. It’s more than a haircut that can make us see ourselves differently. Love is the missing link to who we are to become. It’s the joy of our heart to risk it all for Jesus – is it true for you? How’s your love life?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

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)

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

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.

Be the Light

Have you ever had a dream that left you feeling unsettled? The last two mornings, I have had that feeling. I don’t know why I dreamed the things I have dreamed, but they were disturbing nonetheless. This last one was about a storm brewing that I could not escape. The winds were picking up and the black clouds were rolling in. I was not at home and I couldn’t make my way there because I couldn’t find my car – actually it was a van which is a bit more unsettling to me as well! Anyway, I woke up in that state of “what am I to do?” “Where am I going to go?” Yuck. I didn’t get to finish the dream. I guess that’s why it’s so unsettling; there’s no conclusion. Did I make it through the storm? Did I ever find the hideous van? (Nothing against vans, but this one was a wreck.)

Maybe this dream was because of the unsettled times we’re in. The storm brewing feels like it’s never going to end. And we are, for sure, not at home in this place. I don’t usually write about the tragedies we are experiencing. But I read some of the comments on Facebook last night about gun control, mental illness and politics that left me feeling a bit unsettled. There is a lot of anger coming from all corners. I don’t have kids so I really don’t think about the things parents think about, but I understand the anger.

I don’t have a problem with guns, although I don’t like them. I feel sorry for those who are dealing with mental illness. And I am sorry that all they are given are drugs instead of helping them with the problem. There has to be a different course of action. Background checks will continue to fail the system. Evil is still a problem that cannot be legislated. Parkland maybe the latest but unfortunately will not be the last. There is always a way for evil to find its way. “Where there is a will there will be a way.” It does feel hopeless and unsettling.

We have been on this slippery slope for quite some time. I can remember the unsettling times we had when I was growing up. Back then it was rioting and knives were the course of action. Guns were not an issue. I don’t remember what set it all off. I was in grade school when the riots happened in the local high school. When the high school kids came onto our school grounds, the principal made them leave – and they did. There was respect for authority back then.

Maybe it was my generation that began this slippery slope. We didn’t like the rules we had growing up and we relaxed them for our kids. Maybe the baby boomers got it wrong and the generations coming from them are experiencing the consequences. We took out spanking the kids when they broke the rules – I know; child abuse and all that – I get it. We have to be politically correct and not allow any mention of God in school life. No prayers; although I don’t remember prayers in my school at the time. But the things I grew up with, seemed to have gone away. School isn’t the same as it once was. I don’t know whose fault it really is but culture will not change any time soon. We’re too far down the slope to turn back now, right?

The real problem we’re facing is a heart problem. Somewhere along the way, the heart problem got more pronounced. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. We haven’t sown into the heart the ideas of right and wrong; of love and kindness; of respect for authority. We have gotten way off track. I think we started chasing the almighty dollar and left the family to fend for itself. The dollar has failed us. The family unit is no longer the same. When the family unit has been destroyed, so will the community as a whole. The threads of life are unraveling at a faster pace than ever before. It’s hard to get the family and the community back together again. And the systems are failing because of it.

So, what is the answer we are seeking? Yes, the correct answer is Jesus. However, the community needs the church to wake up to the problem. We need to stop chasing the dollar and start paying more attention to the family. We need to bring back the heart of Jesus’ message to the church and to the community. Love God and love one another. When we follow those commands, it will change the family and the community. It’s not a simple change. It’s a small ruder to turn this boat around.

The church has quite a bit of accountability for this slippery slope. We have allowed evil to reign in our communities and in our families. The church has to be more proactive instead of reactive. It’s not about our programs that will change this world. It’s about the heart of Jesus and showing it to others outside of our walls.

You do know who the church is, right? It’s you. And me. Anyone who follows Jesus has a part to play in solving this problem. And we need to get more involved – even if we don’t have kids – yes, I am talking to myself now. The light will dispel the darkness. We have to be out there showing the love of Jesus to those who have no idea He will change their lives – He will change their hearts. We can’t just talk about it anymore. We have to demonstrate it. Let others experience this love for themselves. It changes everything.

Maybe we need to experience it again too. Maybe we’re part of the problem. We have forgotten God’s love for us and we feel unloved as a whole. Are you on your knees? It’s time, church. We can make a difference. One child at a time. One family at a time. One community at a time. One state. One nation. One world. It’s our purpose. Let’s get on with it.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

To My Dad…

You might think this is a delayed Father’s Day posting. For those outside of the United States who don’t know our traditions, the third Sunday in June is set aside to honor Dads. We have a Sunday in May to honor Moms as well. I don’t know when or how these two days were first celebrated. I don’t remember them being that big a deal when I was growing up. Anyway, this posting is not about Father’s Day. It’s a posting celebrating my Dad because of his 90th birthday tomorrow. My Dad doesn’t really enjoy presents. He could care less about them. His love language is spending time with him. So I will make the trip to see him and love on him the way he enjoys it.

My Dad has been my champion all my life. He has never let me down. He showed up whenever I needed him. Of course, Mom may have instigated the trip to me when I had my car accident. However, Dad has always been the one I turned to when I have needed advice or needed a helping hand. He was a great handy man and could do almost anything. I never had to hire a man to do odd jobs around my house until my Dad was no longer able to handle those types of things.

I was my Dad’s shadow most of my growing up life. On Saturday’s I looked forward to “help” him do those things around the house. Mowing grass, changing oil in the car, anything he did, I was right there with him. The only thing I couldn’t do was play golf with him on Saturday mornings. Even though he taught me to play when I was quite young, Saturday mornings were for his standard foursome. On one or two occasions, I would be allowed to go with him. He taught me how to drive a golf cart long before it was legal to do so. When I took driver’s education, the instructor wondered why I drove so well until I told him I was a golfer. And my Dad was the one who helped me learn to drive on real roads too.

My Dad is pretty special to me. Sure we had our difficulties during my teen years. It was a struggle one summer between my first and second year in college. I was testing my wings, and my parents were keeping me from such a “good” life. All my life, I had boundaries set for my protection to keep me from getting hurt or going down the wrong path. I could have so easily strayed (and did for a time), but they kept instructing (and punishing me) to keep me on the straight and narrow path. Of course I resented it at that time. But looking back on it, what a blessing it was to have those boundaries. I rebelled for a few years, but came back when I realized it was not the life for me.

Dad didn’t have an easy childhood. Growing up in the depression meant his family didn’t have much. His father had a small grocery store so at least they had food on the table. They had a small farm too and had pigs, cows and chickens. During that time, they were probably considered rich. Dad and his brothers were mischievous. Some of my best memories are the times his brothers and him would tell the stories. They would laugh until they cried and of course we would laugh just as hard while listening. Those days are gone now. Two brothers are with the Lord, and it’s hard to tell the tales without his sidekicks. So I guess my Dad did have a rich childhood, and it had nothing to do with money.

Dad has always been a good provider. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to give his girls their hearts desires (that includes my Mom too!). After my Mom died a few years ago, Dad would call me every night. Before he said goodbye, his last words were to remember your Dad loves you very much. He still reminds me every now and then how much he loves me. He is a sweet, sweet man. I love him dearly.

You know the best thing about my Dad? He was a good reflection of Jesus and God the Father. If you see some of the same attributes in this posting, it’s not by accident. There isn’t a negative thought toward God when I think of Him as a Father. Dad was a good example of what it’s like to be God’s child. Provider, yes. Protector, always. Loves my unconditionally, oh yes! Mentor, Mediator, and Instructor. God the Father does it all for me. Jesus is my Rock and my Salvation as my Dad once was for me as a young child. Dad gave me the example early so that I could grasp the concept later. When I need advice, I go to my heavenly Father now. When I need assurance and a champion, Jesus is my man. When I want my heart’s desire, I look to God to provide as He wills.

Dad did his job. He raised me and my sisters to be women of God and disciples of Jesus. Dad shaped my character and helped hone my skills. Dad gave me all that I needed to live a good life. Dad, I love you! Thanks for loving me as you do. I thank God every day for such a good Dad. May God continually bless you richly for the rest of your life. See you soon!

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3 (NLT)

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