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Archive for the tag “Love Others”

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)

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Family Secrets

Have you ever had a family secret you wanted to share? There is a verse in scripture that begins with “and we know.” It’s like that family secret – we know it, but others outside the family don’t know it. We know that we know somehow some way everything will come out all right because we know the family secret. All things will work together for good. But it is conditional. It’s not for everybody. The scripture (Romans 8:28) says for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. That’s us – the family of God.

Sounds a bit like and “us and them” kind of distinction, right? There is a dividing line between us and them. Right now that’s the way it is. However, it isn’t meant to stay that way. God isn’t exclusive. He is a “whosoever” kind of God. Anyone who is breathing has an opportunity to know Him and love Him. It’s the ones who are no longer breathing that have a problem that can’t be resolved if they didn’t know Him before they died. That dividing line is forever etched and can never be erased.

I know it seems rather harsh that God would allow that dividing line for eternity. God did not design eternity apart from Him. He wanted all His creation to be perfect, but sin interrupted the plan. God had a counter move that He put in place to resolve the sin issue. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not die apart from Him (John 3:16 my paraphrase). God’s character is centered on love. But He also has a character based on justice and righteousness. These characteristics cannot be separated. It is who He is. Scripture tells the story and gives us insight to God’s character through the story.

Jesus told everyone that He is the representative of God – if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father (John 14:9-10) – I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because of His words, not His actions. They saw the miracles, but they didn’t believe His words even though He backed His words with miracles.

You want to know another family secret? We are to become like Jesus. We are Jesus’ representatives while He is away. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us – the family – so that we could become more like Him. The secret is this – we are more like Jesus when we love others – the ones like us and the ones outside the family. This love changes us and changes the world. The more love we express, the more love we feel from God. God’s love for us never changes. However, we can feel more loved when we love others. It’s the way we grow more like Jesus and fulfill our purpose – to love God and to love others – the two greatest commandments.

You see, it’s what we are designed to do. There is a hole in our soul that only God can fill. When that hole is filled with His love, we express it to others. Love overflows from that place that God fills. It’s like love bursts forth from us. We can’t stop loving others when that hole is properly filled. It has to be constantly filled though. Our salvation is a one shot deal – once saved always saved (if truly saved by confessing sin and believing in God’s one and only Son who saved us from that sin) – but the hole in our soul has to be looked after. If the hole is ever filled with something that is inferior to God’s love, it shows in our actions (or lack thereof).

A couple of years ago, I heard a message from Andy Stanley that speaks to this thing called love. His message was about this statement “what does love require of me?” What’s the loving thing to do? When we are faced with a situation where we don’t know what to do, Andy said this would be a defining question to bring resolution. We should always opt for the loving thing to do.

Living this out is a lifetime project. We will never get it right all the time. But if we do it consistently, we will continue to grow in our love for God and for others. And we know that God will work it out for our good and His glory. It’s part of the plan. I have shared family secrets so that we will all share this gift we’ve been given – not because of who we are, but whose we are. We know that we know. Let’s let them in on the secret.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6

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

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

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