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Archive for the tag “On Mission”

Not Ashamed

“They” say it is easier at this time of year to share the Gospel message. There are signs all around us to point others to the message of Jesus’ Good News. I had an occasion over the weekend to speak the truth to two women who came to my door. They were going to persuade me that the Bible was difficult to understand and hand me information about the Bible. I stopped their speech and told them I knew the truth of the Bible. However, I didn’t tell them the reason I knew the Truth. I didn’t tell them the Holy Spirit lives in me to help me understand the Bible. I thought of it after they were gone. I failed miserably in sharing the Good News. I was disappointed in my lack of courage to speak boldly to those two women. After the encounter, I prayed for someone else to be better about sharing the Good News with them.

I was reading 2 Timothy yesterday morning. It reminded me of my encounter over the weekend. Paul was always ready to share the Gospel with everyone he encountered. He had a passion to share, no matter the cost to him personally. Even in jail, he proclaimed the Good News to all in ear shot. As I read, I followed the Timothy passage with Acts 28:31: He (Paul) proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Paul was never ashamed. Paul understood the responsibility of sharing the message.

We are all entrusted with the same message. We all have the responsibility to share with a desperate world. If this is the best time to share with ones who are more willingly to hear, then we need to be better at it. They say practice makes perfect. I want a “do over” with those women! I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I just need boldness to do it, like Paul.

When we receive the gift of salvation, we are not immediately taken to heaven. We are left here for a greater purpose. We are not here to keep the status quo but to advance the cause – take new ground from the enemy. We are in a battle that is furiously fought over our family and friends. We have a responsibility where we are – God planted us in this place and time with His full armor and His Spirit. We are told we are not to be afraid, but to be courageous.

I pray I will do better next time. I need to be working out of the Holy Spirit’s power. Normally, I don’t think of things very quickly. I need to learn to wait on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I must be prepared to do battle. My quiet time needs to be intentionally minded with the things God wants and not my wants. I don’t need any more training. I don’t need to study anymore – although I will never stop reading God’s word. I need to be more in tuned with the Holy Spirit. That takes practice.

Book knowledge is good, but living it out is where God’s truth is magnified to a lost world. We are Jesus’ body. We are to represent Him in this world. I may have good qualities but that is nothing compared to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When we, as His Body, represent Jesus well; it will change our world around us. This is nothing like an encounter with Jesus. There is no greater testimony than the one has been transformed by His grace and mercy.

James Robertson (Life Today) said on his Monday broadcast, we don’t have to see the signs and wonders God is presenting to us today. We know we are closer to the end than the beginning. Jesus is coming back one day. Like John the Baptizer before us, we are called to prepare the way. There isn’t much time remaining before all hell will literally be poured out. It’s time to take some more ground.

As Paul as my mentor, I am asking for his level of commitment to share the news of Jesus Christ. Today, the signs point to His first coming – the manger scenes, the gift giving and such. But as the signs continue to point to the second coming of Jesus Christ, I must be intentional about doing God’s work. The work is not finished and will not be done until we see Jesus face to face. Lord, help us! Holy Spirit, work boldly in us so that You can work gloriously through us! Amen.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:9-12

The Meeting

Do you have favorite Scripture that God has used to move you along your journey? One of mine is the passage found in Acts 10. The passage is about the divine connection made between Peter and Cornelius. One morning during my quiet time, I was contemplating this passage. I wondered about the significance of Peter and Cornelius’ meeting. Peter had to be willing to go where he was forbidden by his law to go. In his vision, God spoke to Peter to eat things that Peter considered as “unclean.” God told Peter He had already made those things clean. By God’s hand, He made all things in heaven and on earth. He declared in Genesis 1:31 all that He had made was very good.

Peter had to remove his old thinking and replace it with a new mindset. Peter was contemplating the meaning of his vision when visitors arrived who would take him to Cornelius. Peter took one step out of his comfort zone into a divine encounter. Peter’s vision was about “unclean” food, but God was giving Peter a new understanding that nothing made by God’s hand is unclean – and that includes all human beings. Jews and Gentiles did not meet. It was against their religion to associate with Gentiles. There was a barrier that God created in the beginning in order to separate the wickedness from His chosen people. And the Jews took that to an extreme. God set aside the Jewish people but that didn’t mean that they were any better than their fellow-man. Their thinking needed to be changed.

Cornelius was already on a path that respected God. He was already worshiping God and giving to the poor. He was already doing the things he knew to do, but it was not complete. He needed further information. I have seen this pattern repeated in Scripture such as the encounter found in Acts 18. Apollos was also in need of further information which was supplied by Priscilla and Aquila. When our understanding isn’t complete, God sends someone to tell the rest of the story. There were divine encounters that furthered the Gospel message. Apollos went on to preach the Gospel throughout his world. Paul mentioned Apollos in 1 Corinthians 1:12 as one of the preachers that believers “followed” along with Paul and Peter. Apollos must have been significant in moving the Gospel forward.

Back to Cornelius. Cornelius was a military man from the Italian regiment, which means he probably went back to Rome at some point. As I am contemplating these divine encounters, I wondered if he was the first messenger to Rome. When Paul wrote to the Romans, there was already a church planted. Who was the first one to take the message to the Romans? Was it Cornelius? Was this his divine connection with Peter that set up the wave of Christians to that part of the world? I would have to believe this is what took place. God gives us a small story that forms the larger context of taking the message throughout the world. I immediately thought of the Ethiopian eunuch that was encountered by Philip in Acts 9. Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to a specific road for the encounter with a man who would take the Gospel to the continent of Africa. It’s the small stories that take on the larger story of getting the message across – God so loved the world that He sent His Son; not to condemn the world but to save it.

We may feel that we have nothing to share, but God can use us for divine encounters for God’s ultimate glory! Peter heard the voice and was obedient to the task. Philip started out as soon as he heard the voice. As I stated previously, God used this same passage to move me to my current city – it’s now been almost sixteen years ago. Why did God call me here? I do believe I needed further information. I didn’t have the complete story. I haven’t had the divine encounter (that I know of) to take the Gospel message to my world, except through this written word. It’s not much, but if I am faithful to what I am called to do, maybe someone along the way will be changed by it. That’s my prayer anyway.

If I had not made the move, I never would have met the people I was supposed to meet to get me where I needed to be. My old thinking had to be changed. Sometimes it takes a move of God to help us see greater things than we could ever imagine. Never discount what God wants to do through our small obedience in these “little” decisions – it could impact a world! Cornelius, Apollos and Philip are good examples of what a little obedience could do for God’s glory!

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. Acts 10:22-23, 34-35

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

In Those Days

These are the opening words to Luke 2 – the Christmas story. In those days, there was political unrest. God’s people were under oppression and felt hopelessness. They had been praying for a new king. There had been prophecies about a king from the line of David who would one day come again. For centuries, the people of God had been under the oppression of other governments, other kings. They were looking for the promised one. In the middle of one of the most powerful kingdoms ever established on the face of the earth, a little baby was born. In the silence of that night, a baby’s life would change everything. A star was born that would guide travelers to the place where they could worship the newborn King. There had been silence for the last four hundred years. God had not spoken. God seemed to be absence from the scene, yet God was working in the powerful kingdom to build roads, to build the infrastructure that would support the message traveling beyond the borders of Israel.

Most of God’s people were looking in the wrong place for salvation. Most of God’s people didn’t have a real clue about God’s plan of redemption. Oh sure, they had prophecies; they had the holy word of the God from their Holy Scripture. But most didn’t understand it. I dare say that the high priest didn’t have a clue much less the average person on the dusty streets of Jerusalem. God had a plan. And they failed to see what God was doing in their midst. We, on the other side of the story, can only shake our heads and wonder why didn’t they understand? Yet, the generations that will come after our generation may actually say the same thing of us. Why didn’t we interpret the signs of God that He is obviously demonstrating to us? He is at work but do we actually see?

The next thing in God’s redemption plan is for Jesus to return. I don’t know God’s timetable – His ways and time is not our own. God has been doing some amazing work to set the stage for the next act. The major thing that has really occurred in the last two thousand years (in my opinion) was the translation of the Bible into a common language. It seems since the day of the translation, men and women have understood and acted upon the Word in greater ways than in the previous thousand or so years since the church was established. Many died for the translation to occur. The religious rulers didn’t want the common man to understand it. They were afraid that their power would diminish and give the power to those who would be faithful with it.

When the Bible was translated, everything changed. People finally read the Word for themselves and were changed by it. They had a new heart and a new spirit. Innovations have further moved the Gospel to mankind. The stage is being set in our own time. Are we paying attention to all that is occurring? We turn a blind eye to the injustices. If you are reading this blog posting then you probably have more than one Bible in your house. We read it but do we take it to heart? Does it change us? The Day of Jesus will come sooner than we think. The Bible teaches that we are supposed to pay attention to the signs and wonders that are occurring. God’s Plan is going to be fulfilled. In these days, we have a responsibility to tell the story of the Glory that came to earth in the form of a baby to redeem those who are far from God. It’s the part we are to play in the Plan. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? How will lives change and hope restored if they don’t know there is One who came to heal them? We have a great treasure in the Word. It’s our responsibility to know what is in it and share what we know. It is also our privilege and joy.

I hope in the future when we look back “in those days” we will see such an overwhelming response to the Gospel it can only be explained because the Glory was revealed in those days!

God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. Romans 1:2-5 (NLT)

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

The Good Fight

Once upon a time, I used to hate to read. It was always so tedious to me. But when I think about it, I realize I hated to read text books. History and other topics never interested me when I was in school. Now, I can’t seem to get enough of it now. My interests are vastly different from when I first began to read. I love to pick up a book with meaning – with a purpose than just reading a story for story sake. Romance novels hold no interest for me. But give me a story of someone’s real life; I am fascinated especially of those long ago. I love to understand the history behind the story as well – like the time period and the ways of the world at that time.

Case in point, I just finished reading the biography of Joan of Arc. I have heard the story long ago of this famous girl who rode in front of armies and then was burned at the stake. But I didn’t know the real story or even if the tale was a real story. Joan believed God sent her on a mission to free France from English bondage. (I have often wondered why the French and English don’t get along – there is a long history there.) As I was finishing this story, my heart became so distressed about this young girl. The story occurred long ago, but I felt tears welling up because of the treatment by these powerful “church” men. They had in mind to do her harm from the very beginning of her capture. They were never going to set her free. They believed they were doing right, but their hearts were so dark. The main judge had the idea if he destroyed this young girl he would get the most promising position in the church. Seriously?

I am in distress about this because times really have not changed much. Oh, we live in surely a better world than the dark world of long ago. But man’s heart is still such a dark place. I see the believers today under some extreme conditions in other parts of the world where evilness delights in torture and ruin of God’s people. The shame they bring on young girls by their evil hearts. The torture that women endure – rape, watching their children brutalized, husbands beheaded and such. How can a person be so depraved? My heart hurts. And I realize that the darkness is in me too. I could easily have fallen into that dark place and stayed there. I am just as guilty as any other person today or six hundred years ago. It’s only through the grace of God that the darkness doesn’t rule my heart anymore.

We are meant to feel this injustice so that we will stand up to it. Those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ are meant to be warriors for the cause of Christ. We have the armor that God gives us so that we can go into the battle field and wield the sword with accuracy to defeat the enemy. We can have the same authority that Joan had as she rode to defend her King. She believed she was doing it for her King and country by the will of God. We know that as followers this is not really our home. We are just here for a little while. Our King and country is not of this world. And we have the same conflicts to fight for the injustices of this world. We are here for the poor and needy. We are to make the most of what God wills for our lives. We have a purpose just as this young girl did so long ago. God is waiting on us to join the battle.

Joan heard voices to lead her in her battles. She knew things that were impossible to know. We too have a voice that we are to follow. The Holy Spirit will teach us those things we need to know so that we can fight the good fight. Things are not too different now – the battle is still on. Warriors are still needed. But we have been asleep for far too long. It’s time for us to wake up and be ready to join in God’s work. Are you ready? God’s waiting.

Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight.
Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good.
Seek justice. Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:16-17 (NLT)

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)

Going, Going, Gone!

Last week, I found out my next door neighbor is moving. I told them I was sorry to see them go – and I meant it. They were nice neighbors. English is not their first language so there was always a barrier to communication. But we spoke the occasional “hi” from the yard. They have lived beside me for at least five years. But the thing I got a little bit excited about was that when they moved, they would be taking their dog with them! Disclaimer – I am not a pet person; I never grew up with pets, and I just don’t have a love for them. This dog has been my nemesis. Whenever I am outside the dog barks continuously until I go back in the house. Front yard or back. If the dog sees me in my living room, it will bark. I haven’t been able to enjoy any time in my yard since the dog has lived with them.

The dog is a rather large dog; mostly mutt but has some German shepherd in the mix. When the dog has been off the leash, it has charged at me – three times. The encounters have put me in a fearful mode when I attempt to go outside. I always check to see where the dog is before I venture outside. The past encounters have given me flashbacks to my childhood with other encounters with large dogs. I am not a big fan to say the least. So yes, I am glad this dog is going away. I did a little happy dance when I thought I could at last be at peace in my yard. Not only has this dog been a nemesis for my peace, I have had other neighbors bring dogs home and there’s a chorus of barking dogs whenever I am trying to write or study God’s word. I have started referring to those times as Satan’s tool of distraction. Once I submitted my annoyance to God, the dogs have no longer been an issue during those special times.

As I was contemplating these last three years of doggie distractions, I realized this was the time that Jesus had set aside time for me to begin a new work in me. I was reminded of the study we just finished up in my small group time. We studied the book of Jonah with Priscilla Shirer. She wrote (and spoke) about navigating a life interrupted. God has plans for us. Sometimes we have these “divine interventions” to get us on His plan. Over the last three years, He has been working on my heart and His plan. He wants me to be aligned with the things that He has in mind. It’s not too difficult to figure out that His plan involves people. He wants everyone to know about His love for us; His plan of salvation through Jesus, His Son; and how He wants to use each of us to reach our neighbors. Satan doesn’t want this to happen and will send whatever distractions or obstacles so the work will not be done!

For those of us who follow the commands of Jesus, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus suggested – I mean – told us to go out into the world and disciple others; to teach them to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). I think we all understand this is what we are to do. But if you are like me, you might not actually do it. The world is too big to conquer. We can’t reach it by ourselves. But my world is a bit smaller. God has placed me beside these neighbors. For the last few years, I have understood this is my world. I was happy the dog was going away, but I should have been sad about the fact that I would not be able to be a light to this neighbor anymore. I should be heartbroken that I will not have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. The language barrier was always an excuse. Now, the dog won’t bother me, but the thoughts of missed opportunities might.

God’s plan is always about people. Jonah became angry over God’s compassion for the people of Nineveh. There are always obstacles to share the Good News. We need to have the compassion that God has because compassion always leads to action. The barriers will never stand in our way if we understand God’s perspective that everyone is worth the effort because Jesus died for them too. We will be compelled to tell! The opportunities like the dog will be going, going, then gone for good.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

When God Interrupts

Have you ever been interrupted in the middle of a conversation? Isn’t it annoying? It’s also very rude. Yet, when God does it, are we perturbed by it? We can have the greatest vision for our lives, but if it’s not God’s will, He may come in and interrupt those plans. Sometimes He allows us to follow our own course, but at some time He will help us to see something much better – His will for our lives. On Tuesday, my nephew and his family flew out of the country to begin a new chapter in their lives. It’s not something we as a family really wanted for them. After all, they are taking precious little ones far from family. But God has placed a divine interruption right in the middle of their lives and ours. He called them to a higher purpose than living paycheck to paycheck. He called them to go and make disciples to those on the other side of the world. He called them to love people who don’t know Jesus. He called them to something better.

In a way, I feel a bit envious of their new chapter. They know what they are supposed to do in this foreign place. They have their instructions and will have such an incredible time experiencing Jesus in a very different way. They are risking everything they have for the sake of the Gospel. But isn’t that what we are all called to do? Faith means nothing if it isn’t put into action. Faith means stepping out even when the vision isn’t fully revealed. Faith means we will go even when we don’t know what’s in that place where God wants us. Our faith is not for the faint of heart. It means taking huge steps so that God will be glorified in them. The unknown would probably scare us to death if it was revealed. Sometimes, it’s best not to know.

But faith means we place our lives in someone’s hands that is greater and knows all things. There is nothing that surprises our God. He is Sovereign. He sees our circumstances before we even get there. He is already there working it out for good even before we encounter it. God brings us the interruptions so that we can know Him better. We can understand another aspect of who He is. He is more concerned about our heart than He is about our comfort. If He needs to interrupt us, then it will be for our good. It is an opportunity to know Him better and to know His love in a greater way. And it’s always about bringing Him glory.

Yes, I am sad to see my nephew and family leave us. But I can’t wait to hear the stories they will have on how God has shown up in this new chapter. I can’t wait to be able to go to that place where they will be and see all God s doing through them. It’s hard for the grandparents to experience this season. I can’t imagine the loss they are feeling. But I know that God is going to take that pain and use it for another purpose. He is going to make something good out of all of it – I know it because God is that good. He takes it all for His glory and our good. God interrupts our comfortable so that we can experience a greater joy and greater presence than we could ever imagine. God is that good. His love is that good. We just have to have the faith that good will come out of those interruptions!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 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.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

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