buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Love Others”

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)

Peace in Chaos

This week is the annual family beach trip. As I sit here typing away, children are squealing in delight. The television is blaring with cartoons. But I am in my happy place even if it’s chaotic. I love this place with the family under one roof. The youngest is under one year and the oldest – my Dad – closing in at 90 this month. The baby had a hard time adjusting to my Dad; I guess old just doesn’t come across well to the young. Anyway, family is very special to me. I love being with my nephew and their kids. The kids go strong from sun up to sun down; and I think the adults are a bit jealous to have some of that energy!

God blesses the young with the energy and the old with the dreams – the young can accomplish what the old no longer can manage. We pass the baton to the young and let them run the race. We can give guidance and instruction. But they have to pay attention to what we have to say. Many times, the young resent the boundaries we impose on them. Boundaries are there for protection. As the young grow more mature, the boundaries are adjusted to reflect their new maturity.

I think God gives us boundaries as well. We all need those protective boundaries. The ocean only goes so far. God set those boundaries at the beginning. Climate change is a big topic right now, but I believe God already allowed those boundaries to expand and contract through time. We are the ones who have built where we shouldn’t have built.

The beach where we stay is located on an island. At the point of the island, we can see across to the next island. The other island has houses built to the very tip. However, there is a multitude of sandbags lining the shore to protect the houses that were never meant to be there in the first place. The planners didn’t plan for the shifting sands to shift, but it has occurred just as God allowed from the beginning.

God knows the boundaries will be pushed. Culture resents the boundaries He established from the beginning. Those houses will be long gone in a few years; the sands on the island shifts as the tide flows. But we are to be ones who never shifts as the tide of culture shifts. Our foundation is on the rock of Jesus. Our foundation does not move according to culture change. Right now that is unacceptable. We might experience blow back from our narrow view. God, however, is not pleased when culture shifts away from Him.

As the people of God, we are not to judge but to love. God never gave us the right to judge others. That is His right. His Word tells us our right is to love as Jesus loved. It’s easy to love my family. They are a loving bunch. I think God gave us a picture of a family in order to show us where we stand with Him. He wants all of His children to get along. He wants His family to show love to others outside His family. God is all about adoption and would love to graft all the people of the world into His family.

As my family has grown over the years (with new people being grafted in), we have all had to make adjustments. But we live with the same rules when we come together. We have the same understanding. There may be chaos in our midst, but there is a peace that fills the room. Love is the undercurrent that never shifts from our foundations. Yes, there is discipline when someone breaks the rules. There is crying involved at least once a day. But at the end of the day, we know that love always prevails.

So it should be with God’s family. Our foundation is built on love. Chaos may happen all around us, but peace is always part of our DNA through Jesus; and love always prevails at the end of the day. God has allowed what is taking place today, but it’s never His will to let others dictate how we live. When we live by His rules and His boundaries, we are in a happy place. Our lives work better and the peace fills the room of our hearts. This is God’s way. His foundation never shifts, and we can stand on that promise. The beach is a good place to learn how to be in a loving family.

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)

Family Talk

A few weeks ago, I submitted a test to determine my genetic makeup, and I received the results last week. It was not a surprise that the majority of my genetic code comes from Northern Europe – mostly British and Irish origin. I knew my father’s family tree as far back as the 1800’s when they arrived on American soil from the British homeland. I don’t really know my Mother’s people and their history, but now I know some of it since the majority of my DNA is Northern European. At some point, my Mom’s family had to have come from that region as well. I have a touch of culture from a couple of other regions as well. Nice.

Along with the ancestry portion, there is a health component to the test results. I have a few holes in my genetic makeup that needs to be filled with supplementation. If Jesus comes back soon, it’s irrelevant. But if He is delayed, then I need to work on my health plan. I don’t want my health to be an obstacle to completing the work God has given me to do. I am sure there will be many obstacles; however, I don’t want something that I could avoid to be one of them.

Like everyone else who has answered the call from Jesus, the work I am called to do is to be witnesses to those around me; telling the story of Jesus – His birth, His death and His resurrection and His redeeming plan for us. Those who answer the call are told we are to love each other because we are family. We will be known for our love for one another.

I also have a passion to help my Family get healthy. The Body of Christ is hurting, and there are a few holes that need to be filled. I look across our gathering times on Sundays and see a sick Body. Not judging here, but being observant to the people around me. I heard a few weeks ago about a dream someone had that Jesus spoke about His bride not being ready for Him.

Jesus told parables about the time of His second coming. One as a groom coming back for His bride – He went back home to prepare a room for His bride and would come back when the room was ready (as was the custom of that time). One about ten virgins preparing for the arrival of the groom – five virgins trimmed their oil lamps and had enough oil to last; five virgins were not prepared and ran out of oil before the return. Jesus also spoke about a thief coming in the night. If the homeowner had known the time of the thief’s coming, the homeowner would have been prepared.

On another occasion, Jesus gave a parable of a Manager who put others in charge of his money while he was away on a journey. Upon the Manager’s return, the ones who were put in charge were judged by the amount of growth that had occurred with his resources while he was away. I believe we are in a time when we act more like the unfaithful servant who hide the money instead of investing it for the future. We are staying within the walls of our building instead of going out and growing the Kingdom. I am guilty of this – it’s easier to stay in my comfort zone than take a step outside in the scary world.

We are told in Scripture to be watchful to the times we’re in so that we would not be caught unaware. I think we’ve forgotten that time is short. We are told our lives are just a vapor; but it’s hard to keep this in perspective. The early church believed Jesus was coming back quickly so they were all about spreading the word. I think we have grown used to the wait and really don’t consider it an issue. However, there are more signs today of the pieces of the puzzle falling into place than ever before.

Things are coming together, and one day a trumpet will sound. Jesus said He would return for us. We need to believe it and watch for it. And remember Jesus is looking for His bride to be ready. Many believe we are the generation that will see this come to pass. My heart grieves for the ones who think they are ready when they are not.

From one Family member to another, we need to be ready to meet Jesus. We each have to evaluate our hearts. Seek forgiveness. Embrace God’s mercy on your life. You are His child. Embrace His love for you. Because of Jesus, He has made you worthy. Accept it and live out of it. You never know when Jesus will come for you. Today may be the day. If not today, then we have one more day to live with a pure heart and a steadfast spirit and do the work we’re called to do. Go, love well.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Psalm 51:10-13

Becoming Successful

I listen to Andy Andrews’ podcast on a weekly basis. On one podcast recently, Andy mentioned this little book that had a major impact on his life. It is called The Greatest Salesman of the World by Og Mandino. I was curious, and I had to check it out. The book is small and has much to say about how to live a life with success. There are ten “scrolls” in this book that give guidance on how to become successful. I don’t see myself as a salesperson, so I didn’t know if it would be relevant to me. However, as I read through it the first time, there are many things that I could incorporate in my life to be a better witness for Jesus.

The book mentions that in order to incorporate these tips in one’s life, the reader needs them to become a habit. A habit is something that is done with regularity. The suggestion is to read one “scroll” a month. Read that one every day; morning, noon, and night; for 30 days. As the reader sits with it daily, it seeps into the subconscious; it starts to shape how we think and also gives us a different perspective about how to live our lives. Andy suggested doing it, so I started the journey to become successful!

I began with the second scroll instead of the first. The second is how to become successful by using love as the tool. As I sit with this one “scroll” this month, it is a reminder that this is what I am supposed to be doing as a follower of Jesus. As I stated earlier, I don’t see myself as a salesperson. Although I have written two books, I don’t necessarily want to go out and sell them. I would like for them to sell without my actual effort in doing so. My focus isn’t on writing or selling books but, how to live out this life as a follower of Jesus. The books are what I have experienced in life. What’s that have to do with selling though? We all sell something at some point in our lives. Whether we are “selling” the Gospel message to our friends and family or have an actual product we believe is worth selling.

The love chapter starts with this: “I will greet this day with love in my heart.” The author believes this is the “greatest secret to success.” Nobody will pay attention to our words until they feel the love directed toward them. The world is looking for love – mostly in the wrong places. One sentence stands out to me in this section: “Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip.” Digging is always more work than scratching, wouldn’t you agree? We may have to look deeper for the ways to love someone, but there is always something there to love. God said we are all made in His image. If that is the case, then that is the reason to love each and every person on this earth. (And yes, even the political ones!)

The world is in turmoil and no government official is going to turn the tide. It’s going to take a move of love to change people’s perception – not only of us, but of God the Father and Jesus the Son as it’s done through God’s Spirit leading the way. People are looking for something. They just don’t know what they are actually seeking. We are told in Holy Scripture that we will be known for our love. If we love God, then God’s love is in us, and we love through His love. It’s who we are as the Body of Christ. We are to reflect His character. But really, it feels impossible! People are so difficult to love!

Yet, Jesus said this is the second greatest suggestion – I mean, commandment – love others. The greatest commandment of all is to love God with all our being. As I contemplate this little book; and as I see our nation falling apart at the seams, it reminds me that this move to love starts with me. I have to change the way I look at people. Yes, they are difficult, but there is something God put in them to love. We may have to dig it out, but it can change a person when we represent love well. No one can withstand the force of love. It’s up to me to take the first step toward this change. Will you join me in becoming successful?

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:15-17

Source: Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World (originally published by Frederick Fell, January 1968; Bantam edition March 1974; Bantam Trade edition February 1985) pages 58-62

The Championship Team

Last week was an anniversary that I had completely forgotten this year. One of my college friends posted a picture of a plaque she received on the 20th anniversary of NAIA National Championship won by our women’s basketball team. She was the point guard, and I was the manager of the team. We had different roles on the team, but we got to experience the same event. It was an exciting year in my life.

We were the Cinderella team that won the title. If you had asked any of us just a couple years before that championship year if we would be in a national title game, we would have thought you were delusional. I joined the team my sophomore year (it was also the coach’s first year as well). We only won five games that year. It was a transitional or building year. The next year we did better. Our coach had recruited well.

We were a much different team with the new recruits. However, it wasn’t really about the quality of the players. We had chemistry and functioned well. There was a unity on the team that was remarkable. By the third year, we were almost unstoppable. We did lose five games that year. I don’t remember too much about the losses except for one we had on the road in New Orleans. It was a Christmas break trip. We faced a scrappy team that played more “street ball” style than “play book” style. We lost by about a dozen points.

The reason I remember this team over the others was because we faced them again in one of the playoff games before the title game. When we faced them the second time, we knew their game plan. Our coach had counter moves to thwart their play. We ended up winning by about 18 points. That last week of our season was completely March Madness!

My friend’s plaque reminded me about that time in the past, but I heard a message about unity that brought to mind something deeper. The message spoke about Jesus bringing unity through His life and death. Before Jesus died on the cross, He recruited a bunch of rugged men who were diverse in their backgrounds. The team He formed had fishermen to tradesmen. There were two though who were extreme in their differences: a Zealot and a Tax Collector. Who in the world could bring unity to this bunch? The Tax Collector (Matthew) would have thrown the others into a tizzy. Matthew was a hated man among the Jews.

Yet, Jesus saw the diversity and called it good (I assume). The disciples each had different gifts and different roles. Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group; not Matthew. Judas was trusted with the money, even though he shouldn’t have been since he regularly “helped” himself to the funds. Matthew would have been trusted with nothing since everyone knew Tax Collectors regularly “helped” themselves to the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. But Jesus taught them for three years how to live together and actually love one another (in the end).

In the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him before He called Judas Iscariot. Peter, one of the twelve, had something gnawing in his gut about forgiving someone. He asked Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The answer: seventy times seven or don’t keep score! Maybe Peter had problems with Matthew or maybe the “loved one” John. But the team had problems; they were too unified in the beginning. By the time Jesus died, everything changed then. In His teaching, Jesus was adamant about loving one another. He instructed them over and over this is how others will know they were part of Jesus’ team.

Just as my college team was unified for a greater purpose, we as followers of Jesus are to be unified as the Body of Christ. There should be no division in the Body of Christ. We stand on the foundation of Jesus and work together as a Body with one Head – Jesus – who directs us in the mission. We all have different roles but the same purpose – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus! Others will know us by our love for one another – it was a commandment by Jesus!

Without the unification of Jesus, the disciples would not have brought the message beyond the borders of Israel. They would have scattered without getting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But because the disciples were true to Jesus, we are here today proclaiming the same message that was given 2000+ years ago. We don’t get national championship rings with the victory we are given in Christ; we get a crown that lasts for eternity! Now that’s something to remember and really celebrate! Let’s get in the game and finish well for the winning team!

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

Sharing Spaces

Last week, my family went on our annual pilgrimage to the beach. We have been doing this for the last twenty-four years. It’s become a special time for me and my family. Each year, the adults considered dropping the trip as my nephews got older, but they would have nothing of it. As we have added members to the family through marriage, the new members have had to learn to adjust to these family dynamics. The transitions have been smooth – since the boys have all chosen well! Now, their children are beginning to experience this annual trip as well. We rent one house with enough beds to accommodate all of us, but the sleeping arrangements can be a bit of a challenge with spouses sharing space with in-laws. As older adults have aged, this too has led to some sleeping arrangement difficulties (especially for those of us who are light sleepers).

We have all had to learn how to live together (even if it’s just for one week) in harmony. During the first years, my Mom had a few difficulties dealing with “boy” issues; like unmade beds with clothes on the floor. Mom was used to having “girl” issues since she raised three girls. I had a few moments too with having stubborn teenagers who wouldn’t listen to my instructions (aka orders) to get out of bed or clean the house before departure. Can you say control issues? But those were just bumps in the road. We have had many memories that are seared into each of our hearts that we will never forget.

One of the last times with my Mom remains priceless to each of us. We used to play games a couple of times during the week. One of those times, my Mom won every hand. And each hand she won, we began to wonder how she was doing it. It seemed we would all get distracted by the conversation or something going on outside; except Mom. After awhile, we began to comment that Mom was cheating. By the time the card game was finished, we were all laughing so hard tears were rolling down our cheeks. One of my nephews spoke about that memory this past week. This family week is now bittersweet since she is no longer with us enjoying these precious memories.

Transitions between events can be quite challenging. Loss, either through divorce, death or even family members moving to another part of the world can be difficult when we want the dynamics to stay the same. It never does. Change is inevitable. Each year is different. The house may stay the same; the family members may stay the same, but we are all growing and changing every year (at least I hope so!). Thankfully we aren’t who we once were and we are still in process of becoming who we’re going to be. Living in close spaces with family members brings constant struggles; each wanting to do things their own way (loading the dishwasher for example – not that there is a right or wrong way). Different isn’t bad – it’s just different. My little nephew learned this phrase when he took his missionary training last year.

Meshing families into a functioning harmonious space is challenging. But those harmonious spaces are always under girded with love. We can forgive slights when we know that love is present. The challenge is to love even when hurt; to walk away and forgive the words that cut deeply; to offer grace even when it would be easier to lash back. Close knit families have their own struggles to deal with. I am always reminded that when actions or words are misinterpreted, God knows our hearts. He knows our actions associated with the overflow of our hearts. We have to give the benefit of the doubt to keep the peace. I cannot judge what someone else is dealing with. When we are sharing space with someone else, we have to give them the space in grace. We are responsible for our own actions and reactions. A few sharp words will not change the harmonious nature of our family because we love one another. If we make the trip next year, I know the dynamics will change again. I cherish the way it was and look forward to the way God will make the transitions for next year.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Getting It

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the cross. It’s Easter time after all. It should be relatively easy to consider these things since devotional material inspires contemplation. I really don’t like to think about it though. It is a cruel way to die. And flogging? A whip with metal or glass shards given to someone for thirty-nine lashes because forty would kill someone? It makes me wonder what mind created such torture devices. How can we be that cruel? Yet, we are all capable of cruelty. Maybe not in that severity, but cruelty can be given in many ways. If I had been in the crowd watching Jesus, what would have been my reaction? Would I have been a follower of Jesus? Would I have been like the women looking on in great sorrow? These are the things I am considering.

But there is one other thing I am considering as well. Love. It is the basis of everything concerning God and Jesus’ actions throughout His ministry. Jesus said “if you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9, my paraphrase). Jesus lived out the love that God has for each of us. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. Do I really get it? Do you? Paul said in Ephesians 3 “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. It was his prayer that we would understand this love. I want to. I desire it with all my heart. I want my eyes to be open to it.

Jesus had a moment in the garden when He knelt down to His Father and cried out to take the cup of wrath from Him – but only if it was God’s will. God’s will was for blood to be shed so that we could have a new life. Jesus said that: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Greater love. In His last talk with the disciples, He emphasizes love. His command: love each other. It’s hard to love others. I have someone in my life that is hard to love. Yet, I am commanded by my Lord to love. The only way I can accomplish this Jesus says is to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. He is the only one who can do it. We are to stay connected to Him like a branch is connected to a vine. When His love is in us, we are enabled to share it with others.

When I consider the cross, I don’t consider the horror of it. I consider the love of it – what Jesus did for me. For you. At any moment, He could have opted out and called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have called fire down to consume those who were doing these cruel acts. He could have stayed the hand of those whipping Him. He could have taken the priests out with a single word. He could have done so many things to stop this, but He said nothing. He did nothing. He stayed connected to the cross for me. For you. So that we could love one another as He first loved us. That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of the love that He showed us even when we were still sinners. Even for those who whipped Him; nailed Him on the cross – He asked His Father to not hold it against them, because of their ignorance of what they were doing. They just didn’t get it.

When we finally get it, it will change everything! Love. There’s power in it. When we grasp, how wide and long and high and deep is that love, it will change everything. Do you get it? I am finally starting to.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

The Question

The question was asked last Sunday morning from a guest speaker at a church I was attending. Are you a fan or a follower? What does a fan really look like? A fan is more of a cheerleader – ready to cheer Jesus to become famous in my city, state, nation and world! Yea, Jesus! Go Jesus! It’s really no commitment from me. A fan is in it for the entertainment value. The fan can be as involved as they want to be without risking too much. I can spur Jesus on from the sidelines and not really be involved on the playing field. We have a lot of “followers” in our social media but we should really call them fans instead. The ones who “follow” us are just on the sidelines checking out what we do or what we say. They aren’t involved in our lives following along behind us as we move throughout life. Jesus had followers while He walked this earth. He had people who listened to His every word. They lived with Him and ate with Him.

My inclination in answering this question was to say I am a follower. I really did believe that was my answer that Sunday morning. Last night, I heard a different message that fell right along these same thoughts. The message was from Andy Stanley on the “Brand New” message that Jesus delivered that was radically different in His day and time. The message is still radical today. Jesus came to bring an end to the “all about me” religion to the “others beside you” model. The New Testament can be described as the “doing to others as you would have them do unto you” example. This is how we honor and love God through our demonstration of love toward others. When I consider the difference between a fan and a follower, the follower gets this mentality of loving others just as Jesus loved us. The follower will do what Jesus did.

The New Testament is full of Jesus’ example of loving others everywhere, even from the cross. Pastor Stanley’s question was “What does love require of me?” I think this is really the essence of being a follower. All the commands that are reflected in the Bible relate to the “otherness” of Jesus. It’s how we relate to others. When we demonstrate love, it shows our love for Jesus. This is how we know when we are following Jesus. Demonstrating love cost God His Son. Demonstrating love demands more than of us but is pretty simple in application. This is how we should be known as Christians. Jesus said when we do for others then we are doing it for Him. Matthew 25:35-39 gives a list of ways to help others and in the end Jesus said when you do it for the least of these then you are doing it for Me. Pretty practical stuff that is easy to do but will cost us something.

I want to be a follower. I want to keep my eyes on the prize. I want to be on the field playing my heart out. I was a manager on the women’s basketball team in college. I know what it means to be on the sidelines every game. I didn’t have to commit to the hard times to become great on the field. I could be a supporter for those who were playing. I would rather have played, but I didn’t have game. Following Jesus means being committed to His game – His plan. The speaker on Sunday said Jesus really doesn’t need any more fans. Every knee – EVERY knee will bow before Him one day. It’s not a matter of having fans, but having committed followers who want to be in the game. He is the winning side; He has already given us the victory! He wants more players committed to the game. We are called to surrender, sacrifice and serve – that’s what it means to follow by giving our lives to loving others as Jesus first loved us.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:34-36

Why?

I got a call from a friend having a crisis of belief. I understood where she was coming from since I have had the same kind of questioning not too long ago. She was questioning why she is trying to help someone when they didn’t seem to care about changing. Some people want to be helped and some don’t. Some have gotten to the point in their lives that they need to change their habits in order to feel better. Others will just pop a pill and deal with the consequences later. It’s hard to know when to give helpful advice and when to keep the mouth shut. The words will just fall on deaf ears if they are not ready to hear. My friend was very frustrated. I understood that frustration and hopefully I was able to give her the encouragement she needed to keep the faith!

The last couple of days, I have been plagued with the crisis of belief as well. I have been in a discipleship class for the last seven months. I have been wondering “why am I doing this?” The group was told Monday night that we need to have a heart for those who are lost and without hope. We are not to judge those around us, but to love those around us. There is only one judge, and we were not appointed to that role. God loved us so much even when we were in the midst of our sins, He sent Jesus to us. Jesus came to give us life. Sin leads to death, but Jesus changes death to life if we believe in Him. I am learning how to share, but I have yet to put it into practice on a daily basis. God wants to use us where we are, but we have to be ready to share what we know with those who are ready to hear.

I need to be ready to help those who are ready to be helped. The crisis of belief doesn’t end the journey; sometimes it just realigns the belief to the truth of the mission. Scripture tells me not everyone will be saved. For the ones that the Holy Spirit is working in, we are to speak to those people. We can’t save the masses, but we can speak to the ones ready to be saved. As the little boy who picks up one starfish at a time and tosses it back into the ocean, he couldn’t save every one of the starfish on the beach, but he could help one. This is the mission that we are called to; one at a time. Why? There are people who are seeking; we have to be ready to go.

I cleaned up my diet and my health. I didn’t understand why I was doing it at the time, except I felt bad and wanted to feel good again. God has shown me recently that I am only able to do the things I do today because He helped me to be well for His purpose. He has a plan for the world to hear, but He needs people who are fit and ready to go. Satan wants us to stay sick and tired. Satan wants to destroy us so that we will not be effective witnesses. Jesus said He came to give us life. That’s why I do the things I do – because of Jesus; He is the right way to life. The crisis of belief shifts the direction of my mind; from my perspective to God’s. When I have the right perspective, everything changes.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. Romans 15:1-3 (The Message)

Distractions

For a while now, I have been saying I am in the process of writing my story. I don’t know how many times I have said this in my blog but it’s been a lot! I wish I could say it’s getting done. I wish I could say I have it all wrapped up. It is Christmas time after all. I am a bit perplexed though why it’s not done. Why am I procrastinating about finishing it? It’s aggravating to say the least. I want it to be done but I don’t want to sit down to actually write. Every time I think this is going to be the day that I write, I get distracted with other things. Oh, the things I am distracted with are all pretty good excuses. There’s been a Bible study I have been involved with. There’s been works of service that have come along. Many things get me distracted.

I am reminded of Mary and Martha on the day Jesus came to visit. Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing for the feast for Jesus. Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word. Martha was upset because Mary wasn’t helping. (I’ve had those thoughts recently.) Jesus tells Martha:  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe the distractions are better at the time they are presented to me. Maybe I need to make sure I am choosing what’s better. But as Christmas is approaching, I need to make sure I don’t get distracted with shopping, parties and all the festivities that I forget to remember what I am celebrating. This is a joyous occasion. Jesus is coming for a visit. I don’t need to be distracted by all the preparations. I need to stay focused on the reason for the season. I need to be at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word. This is the reason He came so that we could know Him and know His Father. If I miss this important message, then all the preparations mean nothing. It’s just another holiday party. Yes, I will be socializing with friends and family. But I want to make sure Jesus is in the honor seat at the table.

Jesus maybe visiting now, but He’s here for an extended stay. When He is finished telling me all He has to tell me, then I can sit down and finish what I have started. The book will be finished when it’s time to finish. I just need to be sure that the obstacles coming are from Jesus, not Satan. Jesus may be delaying me for the right timing. Or Satan might be distracting me because he doesn’t want me to tell what Jesus has done for me. Is the distraction helping or hurting? Is it for my benefit or for others? I will choose the best for the kingdom for preparations both for Christmas and my heart to tell the right story that gives God all the glory.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:15-17

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