buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Love”

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

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Father’s Day

Over the weekend, I reflected on our family vacation. A couple of thoughts came to mind that I would like to share. My nephews have turned out to be good Dads. All my nephews have children now and to see them interacting with their kids is very heart-warming. Throughout the week, I observed the interactions with father and son, and fathers and daughters. Right now, we have an abundance of little girls. The girls’ interaction with their Dads is a little different than the father and son relationship. The father interacted more robust with tossing the son about, while the girls were handled with greater care. But in all, love was very obvious toward their little ones.

I saw the Dads taking care of the children’s needs. When cries were prevalent, Dad was there to soothe the hurt. When falls happened, the Dads scooped up their child into a tender embrace. When words were exchanged, Dad came to solve the issue. There was discipline as well. The smack on the rear got the offenders attention. Discipline isn’t showing a lack of love for the child but a matter of training those young children. Regardless of the offense, their Dad still loved them just the same. The Dad would open his arms to his child, and the child would come running. Kisses and hugs were in abundance.

What I saw in those moments of a Dad loving a child reminded me of my relationship with my own Dad. My Dad will turn 89 this month. He isn’t the same as he was twenty years ago. Age has crept in and robbed him of strength and vitality. His interactions with me are different today as well. I still feel his love toward me even though his actions are different. We don’t have meaningful conversations anymore. He isn’t able to play golf with me now. It was one of the ways we spent time together. Now, we spend time sitting in front of a TV; or in the case of the beach house, we sat on the porch and watched the clouds go by. It’s different now. We can’t get the years back. It’s different, but the love isn’t. I love him just as he is today.

As I watched my nephews and been in a father/daughter relationship all my life; I have a good idea who God is as a Father. I know what it’s like to have a loving Dad. But even in my Dad’s love there is imperfection. There isn’t the perfect love that my heavenly Father has for me. I really can’t comprehend the perfect love that my heavenly Father has; I have a good idea because of my earthy Dad. But my heavenly Father loves over and beyond anything that I could imagine.

When the boys took care of their children, I saw how God interacts with us. When we hurt, He comes to comfort us. When we fall, He comes to pick us up. When our feelings get hurt, He speaks tenderly toward us. And when we do wrong, He comes to discipline us to correct us for our overall good. It is all done out of love. And when we please Him, He showers us in blessings too numerable to count.

God’s reflection is evident in my nephews’ actions toward their children. It makes me awestruck at God’s love for humanity. We wonder at times where God is when tragedy strikes. But God is still on His throne, still loving us, and still waiting on us to respond to Him. Tragedy happens because we live in a sinful world. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on us. He still loves us as a Father loves a child. Our defiant behavior will not be ignored for long before our loving Father will get our attention. Sometimes it takes a smack on the rear; sometimes it’s just a rebuke with words. But it never is done out of a lack of love.

I love the picture Luke painted of a prodigal son returning to his Father’s house (found in Luke 15). There wasn’t a day that the Father was not looking for the son to return. The moment the son was in view, the Father waited no longer; he ran toward his son. The Father wrapped him in the finest robe and put a ring on his finger. The son was restored to the family. God is the Father waiting for our hearts to turn toward Him. He is waiting to lavish us in His love. On this Father’s Day, remember God’s love for you. If you are a prodigal, it’s never too late to return to your Father’s house. He is waiting to wrap His arms around you and love you like you have never experienced before!

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

Foundational Truths

My Sundays are usually pretty quiet ones. I have my quiet time in the morning, followed by one of the gatherings of my local body of believers (called “church” round these parts), and then I will listen to North Point Online (Andy Stanley’s teachings or one of the other pastors). Then hopefully I will listen to God as I reflect on what I have heard. Sometimes I don’t listen very well. Or I don’t take the opportunity to reflect; I get busy doing other things. Then the word (as the Word says) is snatched away. I don’t remember what was taught; I forget the message by the time I hit the front doors or turn off the TV. I don’t reflect on the message and how it should affect my life. The word evaporates like water on a hot day.

This past Sunday, I did a better job at listening – maybe it was because I was ready for a fresh word – a fresh perspective. You see, I need a miracle. I need God to show up big. I am praying for a fresh revelation of Him. I have determined that I can ask my heavenly Father for anything. My pastor reminded me through his message about this one truth: God loves me (and you). It’s unconditional. I read on Saturday morning during my quiet time, that I am chosen by God before the foundation of the world. I was chosen to be His daughter (this was not revelation to me – but sometimes I need to be reminded). We all are chosen as His children. Some of us have responded to the invitation from Jesus to join the family of God by receiving the gift of salvation. But not only receiving the gift, but acknowledging Jesus’ work and our shortcomings (sins) and seeking the forgiveness from the Father through Jesus, who is our bridge between God and us.

I have a child’s perspective of the parent/child love relationship. I don’t have the bond of a mother/child love since I do not have children. The child side is different from the mother side (or father side). The parent always has a greater love for the child than the child has for the parent. Sometimes, I don’t think I truly understand the depths of God’s love since I haven’t experienced the deeper love of parenthood. I know in theory, but struggle with the concept in reality. To get past this problem, I have to believe based on the truth of God’s word. There is a depth of love that is wider, deeper and greater than any chasm that can be crossed by human efforts. There is a depth of love that was crossed over by divine nature through Jesus. He became the bridge over the chasm. God sent Him for us. Jesus chose to come for us.

I can imagine the conversation in Heaven before the first spoken word to form the heavens and the earth. They must have decided that it was still worth setting the world on its foundation. God knew the ways of man before man took the first breath. Right then – He chose each and every one of us to be here at this time and place. Nothing is by accident. My breath is taken away each and every time I contemplate the vastness of what was done even when God knew it all from the beginning. He still chose to do the things He did in the beginning. And then, God said it all was very good. Why would He do such a thing when He knew it all from the beginning? Because of Love.

The second truth spoken on Sunday was: God is in control. Nothing is a surprise to God. There is nothing that comes to us – blessings or trials – that first doesn’t come through Him. Dr. Charles Stanley wrote in his devotional this morning that “as believers, we’re assured that no adversity comes our way unless He can use it for our benefit and His good purpose.” The one thing we faced in our lives that was impossible was becoming His child. Sin broke the relationship with God when man (and woman) first sinned. But this wasn’t impossible either, for God made a way where there was no way. Because of that truth, everything we face is possible with God. The miracle has already happened. I am here – you are here, because of Jesus. The relationship with God has been restored when we become His. Because of Jesus, we can ask our Heavenly Father for what we need. He knows the best for you and me. We must trust Him to answer as He sees fit. And know that when we receive the answer, it is for our good regardless of what the answer may be. His love wins every time.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:6, 18-19 (NLT)

Lean in

My dear Child,

Oh how I love you! I want you to understand the depths of my love for you. I want you to grasp that my love is deeper than any ocean; wider than the expanse of the sky; my love for you cannot and will not change. I loved you before you were born. I loved you back then when you were doing that thing that has you so feeling so ashamed. I love you right now when you don’t feel worthy of it. I will love you no matter what you do or what you say. I want you to understand to the depths of your being that my love for you is unfailing. My love for you propelled me to the cross to take on your sin and shame. I bared the pain and sorrow of the cross so that you wouldn’t have to. There was no other expression that could demonstrate the depth of my love than to die for you. I forgive you for everything that you have done or will do in the future. Believe in me to take those sins and shame from you. Get your heart right with me so that you can experience my depth of love.

Open your heart and let my love heal you. When your heart aches, mine does too. When I see a tear, I shed one too. When I see the joy in your face, I am welling up with joy as well. I want you to know I am with you. I have never left your side. I feel your heart beating next to mine. I know you probably don’t feel me next to you, but I am here. You do not walk alone. I want you to feel my presence today. Seek my face and you will find me. I want to reside in your heart permanently. I want you to experience my joy and peace. Don’t be afraid any longer.

Let me heal those hurts and let me into those dark places. I will heal you and make you whole. I will go with you when the waters are too deep. I will be with you in the dark valleys. I will take care of you when the darkness closes in. Do not be afraid. I have not given you a spirit of fear but of faith. Believe in me. Believe I can do all things. Tell me what burdens your heart today. Talk to me. I am right here listening. Let me into that place that is hurting right now. Reach out to me. Set your heart toward me. Open your ears to hear.

Remember the joy you once experienced. Remember the times when miracles happened. Remember the times when you were rescued. That was me helping you. Think about the times you felt my presence. The memories are there; just remember. Remember those moments of your greatest victories. Remember the times when prayers were answered. Remember the times when you didn’t know how you were going to get out of the mess, and yet you got through it because I was there with you. Remember that all things will come together for your good, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. Be still with me for just a little while. I promise when you look for me, I will be found. I am willing, and I am able to do immeasurably more.

My Father wants a relationship with you. He sent me for you. I am your salvation and your hope today. I am faithful and trustworthy – not only for your salvation but for your deliverance. Know that I am for you. I have not turned away from you. What you are experiencing today will not keep you from the place I have appointed for you. I know there are obstacles in front of you, and I am prepared to go with you through them. I want to walk with you. Rejoice now for the things that I am doing that you cannot see at this time. Keep pressing into me as I work it out for your good and my Father’s glory. Stay the course. Keep your faith in me and do not lose heart. I have overcome so that you will have the victory! Remember my love for you will not fail you. Stay close and feel my presence next to you today.

Your friend forever,

Jesus

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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

Are you stuck?

That was the question I posed to my newsletter readers this month. I have been contemplating that myself this week. I have a routine that I follow pretty closely every day and every week. I work out three days a week – usually. I go to church every Sunday morning at the same time. I go to my small group every Tuesday night. I sit down at my computer every morning and look at emails before I get my morning smoothie. I have my quiet time at the same time every morning. That’s my usual week. Since last Wednesday, I had to rearrange a few things.

I hurt my shoulder a few months back and did not stop working out to rest it. I went to the chiropractor last Wednesday, and she got my shoulder back in working order. But instead of going to work out on Friday or Saturday or even Sunday, I decided to take a break. I also, started writing the book (PRAISE to the Lord for the inspiration that finally came!). So my days have been focused on getting words on the screen. I even decided to write in a different room to get my inspirational juices flowing.

But am I stuck spiritually? That’s what I am wrestling with this morning. In my quiet time for the last two mornings, I have been reading in Revelation 3. The church in Ephesus had been doing things well. They had been serving the Lord and doing all that they were supposed to be doing, yet they had forgotten their first priority was to love. One of the things that God has pressed upon me is to demonstrative love toward Him by helping others. We are to “do good” but we are called first to love. The Ephesians church forgot the love part. I wrote in the newsletter last month that “being a disciple of Jesus means that we will demonstrate our love for Him. We don’t earn His favor or earn our heavenly home by doing good works. It comes by belief in the grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus says that we are to love God with all our hearts, soul and strength. We are to love others as we love ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments stated in the Bible – so Jesus says.”

We are told if we are His disciples that we will obey His teachings. In order to obey, we have to know what He teaches us in the Gospels. The central theme in His teachings is: loving others. There really is no other message that we should take away except the way Jesus demonstrated love toward everyone He meet. He even loved the Pharisees – they just didn’t understand though. He wept over Jerusalem when He knew they were going to be battered and scattered for generations because of their lack of love for God and Him. They just didn’t get it. Sometimes I think we don’t either. We – the people of God – could be viewed as the church at Ephesus in this time and place. We are all about helping others, but are we too busy to love God? There are too many things that keep us from devotion to God and to Jesus. We don’t make time to get in His word and learn what we need to be the people we need to be. The weather is turning for the better here in the US (or at least in the south) so that will mean that outdoor activities may keep us from going to church.

Andy Stanley said in a recent sermon “Devotion to God is authenticated by love for others.” In First Corinthians 13, in the famous love speech, “if there’s no love in our action, then it means nothing but devotion to me.” People in the world understand selfishness and it’s “all about me.” But we are to be different. We are to live differently. God said in His word that He created good works for us to do. Before the foundation of the world, He thought of us and gave us a hope and a future. The way life was supposed to be was in an intimate relationship with Him. That’s what He desires. When we finally understand that we are to Love Him and show love toward others, we will finally shake off the Pharisee robe and live as a follower of Jesus!

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:10-12

Sweet Spot

Recently, I heard a message which contained a few statistics on churchgoers. The research indicated that there were four categories of churchgoers. We all start out in the first category as people far from God. We may know about Him but do not have a relationship with Jesus. The second category is ones who have a relationship with Jesus – we understand we have received grace by the blood of Jesus, but still working out what this relationship really means. The third category is people who have a close relationship with Jesus. They depend on Jesus daily for guidance. The fourth category is the ones who have Jesus fully in the center of their lives. They have totally surrendered everything to Him. It’s the most important relationship they have. It guides everything that they do. Of those in the fourth category, the teacher said his research focused on the thirteen percent of the “elite” Christ-centered folks.

The thirteen percent are the ones who love Jesus with all their hearts. They willingly share their love of Jesus with others. They serve Him completely. There is nothing that stops them from sharing everything they have for the love and sake of the Gospel. One out of seven or eight people in the church have this type of commitment. I wish I could say that I was in the thirteen percent. This is my goal though. The church’s mission is really about getting us all to this category. We are to become disciples who make disciples. Disciples have a heart for people – we are supposed to love one another. This is our trademark as a disciple – that’s how others will know we are disciples of Jesus. The relationship with Jesus is the key to loving others. We can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible to love others first. Sometimes though, I have found it’s easier to focus on the vertical relationship than to focus on other relationships.

The church is in the business of moving us from one category to the next. However, we may have a wall that gets in the way of moving from one category to the next. This was really a “ah-ha” moment for me. I definitely have built a wall around my heart. I have gotten hurt in the pass, and it’s just easier to keep people at a distance. I haven’t loved others as I should because it’s a vulnerability that I just don’t want to risk. But the wall is keeping me from living in the sweet spot with Jesus. The sweet spot is the place where everything changes. It’s the place of being in the center of God’s will. We are living with purpose and contentment that God is in control of our circumstances for our good and His glory. The sweet spot is where I become one with Jesus. I always thought it was the marriage ceremony to come in the new Kingdom, but I believe now that is the true place where God wants us right here, right now. To be married to the heart of Jesus – to be one – united in His desires and united as the body of Christ. Living in the sweet spot is a great joy to Jesus. When we’re all in, He can do more through us than what we could ever ask or imagine!

What if this was the goal of everyone in the church body? What if it was no longer thirteen percent of the church but more like fifty percent or sixty-five percent? How would that change our communities? How would that change the perception of “church” today? Would we make a difference in our cities or nation? This takes a different mindset. It takes commitment to the relationship with Jesus. It takes more than just going to church every Sunday and checking a box for the week. It’s a dedication to develop more understanding, more time with Him, more opportunities to serve Him – it’s more cost to us. It’s called a surrendered life. It’s about giving up control. And who actually likes giving up control?! Control needs to be in the hands of the One who can handle it. To become spiritually mature, we need to become more intimate with Jesus. It’s the only way to move from one category to the next. Let’s grow the percentage of those who are in love with Jesus, live in the sweet spot, and make a difference in the world around us!

Note: The teaching message was from Oak Hill Church by Greg Hawkins “The Goal” and “The Plan”

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:9-12

The Suggestion

The great commission challenges us to go and make disciples. Last year, my church started a school to teach us how to be the solution to meeting the needs of the community and put the great commission into practice. We were learning how to disciple others; how to teach the Word. The school was teaching us to get outside our four walls and have relationships with others. I was all about learning these principles, but I was having a hard time putting it into practice. Forming relationships is tough business in this crazy world we live in today. It’s much easier to have community on-line. But I don’t think this is what we’re really supposed to do. It’s a good start, but nothing takes the place of one on one relationships.

If I look at the Bible for examples, Jesus and His followers did life together. They ate meals together and walked around together. They were all up in each others business. There was no “private” space. Much of the world around us (except in western culture) live in this way as well. In other cultures, neighbors are expected to come and go. There really isn’t much “personal” space. Single people don’t have privacy; they don’t live alone. Families live with other families. They all do life together. This is just not the case in western culture. We like our privacy. We like the fact that we have two thousand square feet of living space – not just for one family, but maybe for just one person alone! If we had to share our stuff we someone else, we might actually freak out.

I was listening to a forum on discipleship which brought out the fact that in order to disciple others we have to be in community; we have to have relationships. One of the speakers talked about a young man coming to live with him and his family. The young man was a new believer. He lived with the speaker for a year. Then the young man got engaged then married. When they married, they moved in with the speaker and his family to learn how to live as a couple – how to fight, how to ask for forgiveness, how to live as a married couple. This just sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But isn’t that the biblical way? I am reminded that we are not to do life alone. We are not meant to isolate ourselves. We are meant to have community that exists in the everyday life. Daily life is where we need the influence of one who has walked the road we’re on. Daily life is where the real life happens.

Jesus set the tone for us. He is our mentor on how to mentor others. It’s more than a one-on-one time with someone else; it’s many mentors speaking the truth into a person’s life in the community. The forum emphasized relationship building as the way to disciple others – the same emphasis that the school attempted to convey and multiplying the efforts – disciples disciple others. And the movement continues. It’s all good in theory! Relationship building is HARD. It takes time and effort. It will cost me something. Am I willing to pay the price? Are you? Is it time for the western church body to change its way of “doing church?”

Do we sit in church every week and absorb what the preacher is saying, but never apply what is heard? Do put he Bible down on the table when we get home and only pick it up to take the next Sunday? Is this really what Jesus had in mind when He said to go and disciple others in what is now known as the great suggestion? I feel like we have it all wrong. We are no longer seeing growing spiritually mature believers. We are in dangerous times spiritually speaking. One day we’re going to be in front of Jesus, and He will send those away who He doesn’t know. Someone will say, “I was in church every Sunday morning.” He will end up saying “I never knew you.” It’s sad to contemplate that thousands upon thousands will be turned away from an everlasting life with Jesus. They knew about Jesus, but they never surrendered to His Lordship. It’s all about the relationship! He can fix the mess!

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:2-3

Abundance

I love food. I have always had an interest in eating. In the early years, it was the unhealthy variety. Since I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I have learned to eat better. The diagnosis also caused me to be restricted on several of my favorite items – like flour and sugar. Since I have been restricted I have noticed I focus more on food than ever before. I am considering what I can eat for my next meal; searching for a “treat” for my snack; checking the list of what I need to buy in order to eat for the next few days. It just seems to circulate in my brain so much more now than ever before. In my quiet time in the last few weeks, I noticed a tendency to think more about my morning meal (smoothie and small coconut mini muffin) than concentrating on my praying partner Jesus.

This really disturbs me when I recognize I am doing it again. And I am sure it isn’t something Jesus wants me to focus on either during my quiet time. I know I am not going to starve, but yet I feel this mentality happening. I live in a land of plenty. There is an abundance of food. There is so much food that we tend to throw away much more than we should. We find a bad spot on an apple and toss away the whole apple. I was helping out with a dinner fund-raiser not too long ago where we threw out buckets of potatoes and green beans because there wasn’t a place to take it for the homeless or the ones who had nothing to eat. It really bothered me to throw the food away. I see the likes of other places around the world where people do not have enough to eat and wonder how we can distribute food better.

Then I hear from a news report that one of the most fertile valleys in this land has a water shortage problem due to a three-year drought. I wonder when the abundance will come to an end. In the Bible, prophecies about the end times concerns famine and water shortages. I believe water will be the new “oil” wars. Drinkable water is rare around the globe. One day we will look back at this time and marvel at our abundance. I am sure we will also wonder how we could have been so wasteful. I believe one day too that we will be accountable to God for our excess, wasteful and hoarding tendencies. I don’t know what I am to do about the distribution problem. But I need to start thinking about my own tendencies concerning food. I need to put it in proper perspective. Am I more concerned about my stomach or another person’s? Do I have the things in mind that God does? Am I meeting needs around me?

God has given abundance, but it’s not to build bigger barns to store it for a rainy day. Good quality food will one day be a rarity if we are not careful with the resources God has given us. Next week, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving here in this country. It’s the occasion of excess food. We will pile our plates high of favorite foods and sit down with family and friends. It’s a special time for sure. I enjoy my family time. But I also need to consider how I can feed someone else on this special day. I am grateful for God’s abundance. I shouldn’t ever take it for granted. But the focus should always be on Jesus and what He calls us to do with the abundance. We are to love one another and sometimes that means feeding others instead of ourselves. Jesus and I will be working on this stomach issue in the future (both mine and others)! Love of food is not wrong, until I start to focus on it rather than Jesus.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

No Matter What

While I was reading last week’s post before I posted it, I thought about something that I need to continue the thought. I mentioned that the dash matters for our eternal life. Do we actually get that fact? What counts is how we live our lives and how much it will affect our eternity. Francis Chan has a video on YouTube showing a long rope with a red tip (Google FC rope video). The red tip is actually the life we live on earth. The rest of the rope is eternity. We concern ourselves with the here and now – the red tip portion. However, we should be concerned about the longer eternity portion. We all will have an eternity somewhere. We actually get to choose where we’ll go, but the choice has to be made here. We can choose to believe Jesus is the way to eternal life or we can choose to reject Jesus; there really isn’t another option.

I have heard the comment how can a loving God send someone to eternal hell (which is the separation from His presence). Louie GIglio said maybe the question should be how could anyone reject the love of God? It’s our choice to choose our destiny. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) – only through Him will we have eternal life with Him forever. Yes, it’s a pretty narrow way. However, the way is open to everyone. Jesus died for the world – no discrimination on race, color, nation, etc. Jesus said though that few will find the way (Matthew 7:13-14). God’s love is so wide, long, high and deep (Ephesians 3:18) that He sent His only Son to give us the eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus was sacrificed for us. God doesn’t want us to choose to be separated from Him for eternity. But if we have nothing to do with Him here, why would we want to be with Him for eternity? We get to start the relationship here, not there! What a privilege to have a relationship with the Almighty God of heaven and earth right here and right now.

The red tip is so short and the rest of the rope so long. Let’s not concern ourselves with the things that do not matter. Eternity will be here before we know it. There’s too much at stake. We have the opportunity to get to know Jesus here and now. We are given His word to read and to gain understanding. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand, but that’s why we are given the Holy Spirit to help us. The Spirit is given to all who call upon Jesus as Lord; who believe He is the Son of God and died for our sins. He redeemed us to be His children. He purchased us so that we would not have to be punished in eternal hell for our sins. He paid the debt that was owed. No matter what we did, He still loved us enough to die for us – even while we were still so far from Him. Now that’s a loving God who wants no one to perish! Religion says we have to seek God; but the relationship with God starts with Him coming down to us in the form of Jesus. None of us who have the desire to know God unless God sought us first. This is the difference in religion versus relationship.

The dash really does matter; it’s here that we consider our eternity. Jesus is the way to eternal life. Choose life. Once the destiny is determined, the life lived here on earth gets infinitely better – maybe not in circumstances, but in the hope and assurance that we serve an awesome God who never leaves us or forsakes us – no matter what! Storms in life will still come, but God will walk through them with us. His peace is given. His hope is secure. Our lives are secure in Him. There is nothing better than having that peace and security in His loving embrace – no matter what!

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:18-24 (The Message)

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