I love you…..sometimes

sometimesWhen was the last time you looked deep into the eyes of that someone special and said to them, “I love you,” followed by a confident, “….sometimes?”  That may sound strange, but I’ve often heard people say they don’t feel ‘in love’ with someone all the time.  I think its easy to miss the idea of love when we think we of it in terms of feelings.  Love is more than a feeling, and it must become part of who we are.  This is the case to be made – If God is love then His character establishes love and since God can never change His mind then He is always love.  Since this is the truth, and we are His children, then shouldn’t love become a quality characterizing our lives?  I believe it should.

Bearing the image of love….

…..is an idea Paul speaks about in Colossians 3.  He says in vs. 14 that we are to ‘put on love.’  Have you ever noticed whatever someone puts on is clearly visible to everyone around them?  That’s obvious enough!  It’s impossible to wear an outfit and then keep it hidden from everyone…..unless you cover it up with something else.

Not to make love sound superficial, but it must be something we wear so others take notice of its appearance on us.  It shouldn’t be something which is hard to spot about us….it should be clearly evident we know love (God (1 John 4:8), the salvation of Jesus               (1 John 4:9)) and we express love (obedience to Him (1 John 1:3), service in His Name (1 John 1:6)).   There’s a way love acts, and the previous verses (Colossians 3:12-13) illustrate the expressions love binds together, or in other words, those expressions which show a person is wearing love.  If God is love then His people must be like Him.

If we have to debate with someone that we are, in fact, loving, then we may not be wearing it, but covering it up and masking it.   It is not possible for us to satisfy our consciences by wearing love with some people and not wearing it with others who we feel don’t deserve it.  1 John 2:9 contradicts this thought that we can love one person and not another while still being obedient to resemble God’s likeness.  Think of it this way, it is easy to love those who do good things for you but where is the reward in loving those who are so kind?  (Matthew 5:43-48)  Loving the people who are nice to you comes natural to anyone.  You may even love those closest to you, but who doesn’t do that?  If we are able to justify loving those who are good to us, or those we find agreeable then love has been reduced to mere feelings.  We have not understood the concept from Paul of wearing love.  Love isn’t a matter or reciprocation.  It isn’t just reserved for those we find deserving.  The love of a believer has to stand out from the same-old, same-old love we find in the world, and this was the point Jesus was trying to make here.  Our love has to exceed the worldly form of love because God’s love is not expressed merely to those who love Him.  We know God loved all, even those who hated Him, and He sent Jesus so those who rejected Him could have the opportunity to receive Him.  This is not a love which only loves those who have shown some kind of benefit first so as to deserve love back.

When I wear something, everyone sees it.  Even people I don’t know on the street are seeing what I’m wearing.  People I don’t readily agree with see what I’m wearing.  Those who have hurt me see what I’m wearing.  People who don’t deserve to see such a great outfit will see what I’m wearing.  This is what happens when I put on love and wear it.  Those who have hurt me, forsaken me, cursed me, ridiculed me, embarrassed me, showed kindness towards me, helped me, and those who encouraged me —- everyone gets the same treatment….LOVE!  This may be hard for us to get deep within ourselves, but it has to be in us and on us.

If you are having a difficult time loving others then I would remind you of Jesus who loved deeply those who ridiculed Him while He was on the cross.  He loved them so much, He stayed on the cross, died for their sins, and rose three days later.  If Jesus, our Savior and model, could put on love as God is love, then we can too!  For those of you who cover love up with something else and put on unforgiveness, bitterness, argumentativeness, and resentment, take some time today to ask God to forgive you for covering up the love you’re supposed to put on  and display to all.  Ask Him to help you to love as He loves, and if you are sincere, God will help you become like Him!

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I May Be Down, but I’m Not Out!

sickBeing sick is never convenient.  It slows us down and can knock us out of our daily routine.  We get sick, but we have deadlines to meet, problems to solve, and a life to live….we don’t have time for being sick!  I don’t get sick often, and I won’t allow it to knock me out of my routine completely.  It’s rare for me to confine myself to bed for rest since it’s impossible to rest while thinking about all I need to do.  I’ll do whatever I have to do to fight through it and stay productive.

Sickness never comes at an opportune time, right?  I mean, no matter what stage life is at, or what there is to do, being sick is a big inconvenience whose occurrence some other time wouldn’t be any better except that it wouldn’t be happening now.

Our struggle with difficulties is much like struggling with sickness.  It has the ability to knock us down, but it doesn’t have to knock us out.  So, how do we ensure we can stay standing when life hits us hard and unexpectedly?

Keep following the doctor’s orders…

We generally only go to the doctor when we do get sick, and he will tell us what we need to do, and we will do that for a time but then begin to slack off.  For instance, I’ve been told to take Vitamin D, especially during winter months, because we generally aren’t exposed to the sun as much as we are in the summer.  Being in the sun helps produce vitamin D in the body….or something like that I’ve been told.  So, if I would take Vitamin D all year long, my immune system would be stronger, and I wouldn’t get sick as often.  That makes sense.  Rather than take something only when I’m sick, I can follow the doctor’s orders and take some preemptive steps to combat sickness.

Ephesians 6:10 says ‘Be strong in the LORD.’  It basically means to follow the doctor’s orders by staying connected with Him.  Our lives easily start to spin out of control, and we begin to feel beaten down and ready to give up due to a coming knock out when we fail to remain in His presence, under His influence, and following His ways.  If you’re not following me, what I’m trying to say is this – the believer is capable when he is connected with God because God is able.  Don’t wait for your life to get difficult before crying out to God and then when all is well to settle into your old ways until you need Him to bring health back to your life because you’re spiritually sick.  If we would stay connected to Him and abide in Him, we would still face difficulties which may get us down but would be unable to knock us out because He is close and always available to strengthen us.

A daily dose of what you need the most….

Your body is able to stay healthier when it has the proper amount of vitamins, nutrition, and water in your system.  Even drinking 8 glasses of water a day boosts your immune system.  If we want to keep our spiritual lives boosted, so we can stand up under the most incredible pressures in life, we understand what Paul says next in verse 10, ‘and in his mighty power.’

Your not able to live the life of a believer without the strength of God.  Compared to God, we have little strength and life stretches us beyond our limits.  It’s here where are limits are reached that God shows He is limitless by giving us the strength to get up and keep pressing on…..we may go down momentarily, but we aren’t out by any stretch of the imagination.  When I can’t, He can.  When I come to the end of myself, I have found the beginning of Him.  When I feel as if the way ahead is too difficult, He bears the burden as I give it to Him.

Maybe the pressures, difficulties, and perceived impossibilities are slowing you down and you feel as if they are about to knock you out.  Right now, and every day from this point forward, seek the LORD and keep connected with Him and draw on His strength.  Be encouraged by His promises, and trust in Him.  Then, when life becomes more settled, stay connected and keep depending on Him and rather than get knocked out, you’ll be able to press on!

What Are You Running From?

runningPeople around you get comfortable with who you are.  They know what to expect out of you and whatever that is they find it acceptable because they call you their friend. People can handle small incremental changes to who you are.  They won’t sweat the small stuff like you deciding you’d rather have your eggs over easy instead of scrambled from now on, or when you decide to grow a beard (men) or get 3 inches cut off your long hair (ladies….well, maybe some guys too!).  See, no one is alarmed by these small incremental changes in preference.  What changes this delicate balance in a relationship is when you become saved which brings a radical change to who you are, how you live, and what is now your primary motivator in life – Jesus.

No doubt, salvation has the ability to cause those around us who are not saved to wonder what we are running from, but in reality we are also running towards something new, as well.

Salvation directs me to….

run from evil desires.  2 Timothy 2:22 specifically says, ‘Flee the evil desires of youth…’ Timothy is a somewhat young minister who has been trained by Paul, and I believe Paul is addressing the need for him to be aware of the trapping associated with being younger.  Yet, this can’t be all Paul means.  It seems just as clear that evil desires are for the immature, those who don’t want to grow up (come to grips with Jesus), and who want to do their own thing and be rebellious.  Sin is nothing to be proud of and as people who have been created by God, for God, it is just immature of us to continue living so willfully in it.  Those who allow sin to run rampant in their lives are like undisciplined children who think nothing of consequences or what tomorrow brings.  They have no mind for what is important or essential and everything, possibly including their own lives, is expendable because like children, they fail to see worth in life, or what is worthy in life.

The believer must be living a life that is running from sin (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:3-6; Revelation 22:12-16).  Colossians 2:21 says of the principles of this world (in other words….sinful practices) “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”  Believer….what are you running from?  Your answer should be from an immature desire to rebel against God and live in sin which will not only corrupt this life, but will destroy the next.

Salvation directs me to…

pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the LORD out of a pure heart.  (2 Timothy 2:22)  What this means is you must:

…….Run after what God applauds.

If we want our lives to please God then we must be saved, but the evidence of this salvation begins to manifest itself in where I seek approval.  Part of the reason people are caught up in sin is they seek the approval of those who do as they do.  As a child of God you should be seeking the approval of your Father – God Himself.  The way we do this is by having righteousness imparted to us through Christ, like Abraham we believe God’s Word to us and have faith in Him so He can declare us righteous, and our whole being is shaped by the right pursuits – faith, love peace.  We have faith in Him, we love what He loves (especially loving Him), and we live at peace with one another.  At peace with one another does not mean to accept sin in others lives, or to stand idly by as they run from the LORD (Ephesians 4:1a; Luke 17:1-4).

……..Run with the right crowd.

Paul tells Timothy in this verse to make this godly pursuit ‘along with those who call on the LORD out of a pure heart.’  What this means is you aren’t meant to pursue Him alone, but He’s given you brothers and sisters in the LORD to run with.

If you want to pursue the LORD, what better way to do this than around others with the same heartfelt pursuit?  I doubt those around you who don’t know Him are spurring you on to live for the LORD, quite the contrary as they have no mind for what He cares about.  I’m not saying you should spend time exclusively with other believers.  If we were all to do this, we would not be effective in our mission to touch the lost with the Truth of Christ.  Yet, we need others who are likeminded in their pursuit of God as we are to help us continue seeking what is right in His eyes.

What are you running from?  Sounds like you’re missing out on something…..doesn’t it?  The only thing the believer is missing out on is the destructive ability of sin in their lives.  Well, it doesn’t sound so bad now……does it?

Pursue Him…..you won’t be disappointed!

Am I stuck in a rerun?

circlesReruns – past shows of epic proportions are now found on wannabe channels looking to hold onto the viewership of the past.  Reruns are so yesterday….literally.  It’s the same episodes with the same characters, same lines, same jokes, same controversy, and of course, the same outcomes.  After you’ve watched them a few times there is no mystery, nothing to laugh at, and nothing to be excited about.  Maybe you’ve felt like this about your life….it’s always the same old, same old.

Being that we are just days away from a new year, maybe many people should be considering how this year can be new, or at least different from last year.  It’s easy to keep living year after year with very little variation in our lives.  People become discontent with their families, jobs, and even themselves when their life seems to lack anything new or fresh, and each day is the same.  It’s as if they repeat the same day over and over again like a rerun.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says this…..’Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’

I think there are those who struggle with the rerun life because they lack this newness in Christ.  See, when a person submits their life to Christ, repents of sin, receives His forgiveness, and then begins living the pattern Jesus displayed there’s a newness which comes on them.  There’s a new way of thinking and understanding, new guidance (the Bible), new director (Jesus), a new script (how they speak)…..and I’m sure you’re getting this by now that there’s a newness to this life.

It’s impossible to live as we were before Christ and expect the benefits of living for Christ.  Ephesians 5:15 tells us to be careful how we live –not us unwise, but as wise.  The reason a person’s life is the same year after year is because they continue doing what they’ve always done in the old life.  We all should know that nothing old can do anything new or even produce anything new in us.

Are you tired of celebrating a new year but never seeing anything new in your life?  Nothing changes?  Join us beginning this Sunday as we start our new study….Escaping the Rerun life.

What is the Perfect Present?

Woman Opening Red Gift BoxWell, there’s not many more shopping days left until Christmas and people all over are feeling the stress which comes with the self-inflicted demands of finding the right gift.  How much should I spend?  Should I get something practical or merely gratifying?  Does a gift exist which keeps on giving?  This site gives 31 gifts which keep on giving… 31 Gift Ideas – Enjoy! and I have to say that #20 is a real memory maker!

We have to admit, we get caught up during this time of year with buying gifts for so many people who fill our lives.  It’s not something we struggle with all year long, just at this time.  What is the perfect gift?  Really, what we want to know is how to give the best gift ever which eclipses all other gifts that person will get….c’mon, just be honest…it’s true!

As you’re looking for that perfect gift for that special someone, don’t forget the greatest gift you can give all year long but especially at this time of the year – Jesus.

What if we were as determined each day to resemble Jesus to those around us as we are obsessed with finding the right gifts at Christmas?  What if we were so committed to recognizing opportunities to relate who Jesus is?  How about becoming intentional about sharing not only our faith, but our reason for it?  (1 Peter 3:15)

We have devoted so much time to making sure we give the best gift we can give, but it is a temporary gift.  We all know…..nothing lasts forever, let alone its expected lifetime.  Things break, get lost, lose their allure, and they may even be……wait for it……re-gifted!  Yet, the Jesus we each serve never fails, never forsakes, and He is always relevant to what lives need most – salvation.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and we have the opportunity to share with others our generosity and love which comes in the form of many different types of gifts.  Yet, let’s not forget to give what matters most – Jesus.  He’s a gift which can change a person’s eternity.  He’s a gift which can change the life and outlook of someone today.   More than any temporary gift I can give, Jesus will be a gift which keeps giving again and again to those who receive it – hope, joy, love, salvation – He can give what is needed most!

 

 

How Should I Know?!?

Questons And Strategy SolutionsEveryone alive has been wrong at some point in time no matter how right you think you are.  We make errors in judgment, there’s oversights, and sometimes we just didn’t know.  Yet, many times we “don’t know” because we actually failed to take the time to become familiar with what we could have known or even should have known.

If I apply, am interviewed and take a new job then I’m going to receive a copy of the policy manual..  This manual will cover how I’m to interact with others in the company, who I am accountable to and various other areas of protocol.  I’ll most likely be given a job description which outlines my position and what I’m expected to do within this position.  It is essentially the plan for my employed life at the company.  If you are ever wrong in anything or need to be corrected as an employee then the documents that will always be referred to are the policy manual and your job description.  It won’t be (at least it shouldn’t be) based on someone’s personal expectations of you apart from those two documents or their case against you will be invalidated.

How can a believer know he is effective as a believer?  I guess it should be stated that an effective believer is not one who just attends church every Sunday.  Being part of a body of believers is good and even necessary  (Hebrews 10:24-25), but it is not everything.  Our lives must be compared to two things:  The policy manual (God’s Word) and the job description (Jesus).  If we are not following the policy manual and job description we’ve been given as believers then we are less effective than we could be if we obeyed fully or we may not be effective at all.

It’s not up to each of us to decide what is good or bad, right or wrong, in the light or of the darkness.  Just as you can’t re-write your own job description or unilaterally modify policy, the believer cannot revise or change the type of life he is to lead or what God expects.  If God’s Word says not to steal then the believer won’t re-write policy and say it is wrong except for anything under $5.99.  When he is corrected, his efforts to justify himself based on his personally revised policy will be overruled by the actual policy found in God’s Word and Christ’s life.  When God’s Word speaks of seeking Him first, the believer can’t one day say that he will seek God and some other preoccupation first.  You can’t put two priorities first….you can only have one first priority. God’s policy clearly states He must be first, so to do anything less is failing to live by what we were handed (His Word and the life of His Son) when we accepted Him.

Can you imagine what would happen if you decided to change your job description by being determined to do something else you felt was important and then defend your effectiveness?  A child of God cannot live however he pleases and then expect God to accept it.  If you are ever going to be truly effective for the Kingdom of God and follow after the life of Jesus, you are going to have to stick with God’s policy and description for your life (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

As believers, we may be need to be corrected at times.  I find the Spirit of God correcting my life continually because there is much about my life which is ungodly.  It’s God’s desire to refine this from my life, and I can speed up the process by absorbing the policy manual (God’s Word) and apply it to my life, so I can live like Jesus (Job Description).  Let’s not forget either how God does use His people to lovingly correct us too.  We can be offended at correction, or we can embrace it as a process which brings about a healthy result and is able to assist our grow, so we can mature in our faith.  That choice is always ours.

We aren’t perfect, and no one will be until they come into eternity with Him.  For now though, rather than have an, “How should I know?,” attitude, let’s be people who read God’s Word intentionally, so we can know it, and follow after Jesus so we can live it!

 

A Giver or a Getter

Asgive a believer, you live each day out like most other people.  You have your ups and downs like anyone else.  You work hard, deal with various difficulties,  have a hectic schedule, and even do much more than anyone ever seems to notice.   The difference between you and anyone else comes down to whether you feel life owes you something or you owe something to life.  Maybe, better yet, God owes you something, or you believe you owe something to God.  It’s really a matter of perspective which basically develops from a matter of thanks-giving.

Let’s be honest but many people always want to know what they are going to get and are very unconcerned with who gives.  It’s simple – people like free wifi and its something very expected when they enter stores, restaurants, or stay in a hotel.  Yet, its not free.  Someone has to pay (give) so you can have it (get) wifi without any expense to you.  We go to stores and expect sales and deep discounts (get) but the store has to be willing to compromise the price (give).  Without even realizing it, we easily get into this mindset of making sure we are getting what we deserve without giving any consideration to our responsibility to give so others can get.

Do this for me, do that for me, help me work on this project, take out the trash, give me a ride to the store….get, get, get….and we give little consideration to when we give back.  If we’re not careful we start to bring this mentality into the church and we’ll only give sufficiently for what we feel we are getting while forgetting our giving is to be based on our attitude towards God rather than the leaders of the church, other people in the church, or what we think the church offers us in particular.

Is it worth my while….

to give?  Worth is a funny thing because we establish value three ways to decide what something is even worth.  First, we have an idea of what something is worth dependent on its reputation….it’s a matter of what I’m willing to pay for that type of item, but my value for differing brands of the same item can fluctuate where I’ll pay more for one brand over another because its ‘better’.  Two pairs of sneakers can be priced the same, but you view one brand as more favorable than the other and you’re willing to pay that amount for that pair.  Secondly, worth or value is established by what I want.  I may be willing to pay much more for something than you may choose to pay because I have a particular interest whereas you don’t.  So, what I want will change the value of what I pay for something.  Lastly, there is need.  I may not want to pay $3 for a gallon of gas but because I’m about to run out of gas, and driving is always better than walking, I’m going to pay for it so I can get where I’m going.  Whether I like it or not, I’ve established to that gas station that there are people who value their gas enough to pay such an exorbitant price over other competitors and they won’t feel the need to change it.  The brand doesn’t have a good reputation, and I don’t want to pay it, but I do because I need it.

Do you need Jesus?  Each of us does, so why would we withhold anything from Him dependent of what we feel He should give to us.  Nobody likes the church talking about money, but Jesus did and He was clear how those who could handle earthly riches would be found worthy to handle spiritual riches.  Most believers I know would like to have spiritual depth, but its difficult to become spiritually deep when we cling to money so tightly and desire to get so much more of it rather than just be faithful as God has asked.  No one likes to talk about tithing, and many want to argue it away for the believer but in the end God has left 90% for us and asked for only 10% to invest in His work, or rather to prioritize His work.

He’s the Creator and I’m created, so who am I to say He’s not worth my giving?  I’m sure there are many excuses I could come with as to why I shouldn’t have to, or better yet, why I choose not to, but the work of God must be worth something to me.  It must be important enough for me to give as He has desired.  It’s not overwhelming or even oppressive, but I know as I give, His work can be better equipped to reach the lost.  Are not lost souls worthy my faithfulness to Him?

What does it say to Him if I don’t want to give to Him because I’m too busy giving to other interests in my life I’ve decided are more important?  As a believer, I can be so focused on being a getter (I know, I made up the word) but since He gave so much, and saw me worth the giving of His life, surely I can give Him mine, and even be faithful with my finances.  New TV’s, cars, hobbies, are not evil in and of themselves, but if my involvement in any decreases my ability to be faithful then I have an issue with my priorities.  Jesus put me before Himself…in other words, He put my need for eternal life and restoring my ability to have a relationship with God before His own physical welfare.  After all, He doesn’t demand it all, but He does desire my faithfulness, and I should too.

What I received because of Jesus’ death wasn’t free.  He paid the price for my sin, so I could have eternal life in Him.  Are you saved because you give faithfully?  No, that’s not at all what is being said or implied here.  Yet, faith and works do complement one another and illustrate the right priorities of a believers life.  Even then, its not just about finances, but about my whole life being His.  Let’s remember, the servant serves the master, and each of us are His servants, so let’s serve Him well.

Live it out….

I will be a thanks-giver; making it a matter of my will to give out of a thankful heart.

 

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