Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58   Entries 166-170 of 286
June 5, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you allowing status quo, convenience and your feelings to guide your connections with others?

Often the difficulty we have with Scripture is not due to a lack of comprehension but rather unwillingness on our part to put those truths into practice, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult people. For instance, take these passages found in Romans.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  Romans 12:9-13


They are straightforward and easy to understand. Yet, for all of their simplicity, we struggle to act upon what we know.  What makes applying these commands appear so daunting? Why are we met with such resistance? Quite simply, these actions of love, humility, generosity, and joy run counterculture to our human flesh. When someone pushes our buttons, all we want to do is push right back. And, if we don’t react we tend to avoid so we don’t have to deal with that individual. Relying on our own strength to accomplish loving that difficult person would be pure foolishness. True obedience is only possible when we rely on Christ’s heart to be reflected in us and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us.


We are confronted with this reality in verse 9 when the author reminds us that love must be sincere. There’s no such thing as “I can love him, but I don’t have to like him.” We must stop giving simple lip service to love. How can one say they believe in a loving God, but fail to show love to those around them? What message would we be sending to a lost world if we spoke of Christ’s love yet did not exhibit the one quality the defines our faith?  Love requires action.  The verses continues, “hate what is evil and cling to what is good”. Rather than rationalizing and justifying away the struggles that are present in our lives, we must come face to face with them. But, we can’t stop there. We must drop our sinful ways and cling to God’s grace as well as rejoice in the good He is producing within us.


At first glance, urging us to hate evil and cling to what is good appears to have no connection to the charge to love those difficult people in our world. We are left scratching our head wondering how confronting the sin in our own lives helps us exhibit love to those around us. It all boils down to a perspective shift.  Because we understand the depths to which we’ve been forgiven we are able to love others through humility, have hope and patience in the midst of any circumstance, and be generous with everything we’ve been given. When one believes they are loved freely by God, they are freed to love others, even “that guy.”


This is easier said than done. It’s as if the author knew our human tendency to become distracted and lose sight of Christ’s love. So, he reminds his audience in verse 11 to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor.” When we become lazy in our spiritual life and disregard our integrity, we make ourselves vulnerable towards letting status quo, convenience and our feelings direct our actions as well as our relationships.


However, becoming sluggish in our pursuit of God has an even more damaging effect on the message we transmit to others. If we are not excited about grace and forgiveness, how can we ever expect those who we want to influence to be drawn towards the cross? Imagine the difference and impact we could have if this body of believers applied these five short verses to our everyday life. We can no longer speak about love. The time has come to answer the call to love extravagantly on Christ’s behalf.


This is my Prayer:  Father God help me to love boldly as You do.  Lord let Your heart be reflected in both my actions and my words.  Jesus may the hope that I have in You speak volumes to the people You put in my path. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

June 4, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what broken relationship are you clinging to the hope that it will return to the way it was before the offense occurred?

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:13-17


Jesus had a unique way of turning our world upside down. He never did things according to the book. He had little regard for our expectations of how things should be.  The crowds who flocked to Jesus were hopeful this was “the one.” This man from Bethlehem was going to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and lead them towards freedom. Jesus had different plans.  Yes, they involved freeing those who were imprisoned, but He died to overthrow the power sin had on our lives. The crowd desired insurrection. Jesus was focused on a resurrection.


This explains Jesus’ seemingly odd comment to Mary outside of the tomb. There was no possible way to go back to the way things once were. He had conquered death so we might live. The old system had been replaced by something new, something better.  Why revert back to a system of self-performance that could never meet the requirements for the life we desired?  The essence of what God has done through Jesus is what allows us to be forgiven and therefore free to forgive. His death brought us life.


We have a built-in longing to make things right. This is why we gravitate towards forgiveness. In our minds, we believe forgiveness can pave the way to how things were before the offense occurred. Yet, no matter how hard we try, things are never going back to the way it once was.  Forgiveness requires a death. For forgiveness to be felt something has to die. In order to see God’s way, our way has to die.  God’s way is the way of resurrection.  Letting go of events, relationships, hopes and dreams that we grasped onto so tightly is no easy task.


Unforgiveness has the power to shape our perspective, influence our words and actions and define our identity. This process of forgiveness means our pride, bitterness; anger and entitlement must die as well. As we loosen our grip, we must trust that God is up to something we are incapable of doing on our own. God takes the bad things that have occurred in our lives and redeems them for His good purposes. In God’s economy, death is not the end, but a way of resurrection. We have been created to live a life that has been resurrected. We have been called to live in relationships that are fueled by resurrection.


In what broken relationship are you clinging to the hope that it will return to the way it was before the offense occurred?  What causes you to hesitate in letting go of the hope that things will return to the way they once were?  What has to die so you can experience a resurrection in this relationship?


This is my Prayer:  Father God, when I encountered Your love my world was turned upside down. Lord may I be reminded of Your great love when I hold on to past hurt and pain. Jesus let me trust in Your redemption.  May You be glorified by my response to forgive as I’ve been forgiven. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

June 3, 2017, 12:00 AM

Can you think of anyone you “tolerate” or avoid because their life looks differently than you think they should?

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Mark 1:40-42

Two things strike me about the story of Jesus healing the leper. One is that the man came to Christ boldly; kneeling at His feet and telling Jesus that He could heal him if He were willing. The leper wasn’t challenging the Son of God’s ability, but His inclination and His readiness.  Now if I were Jesus, I would have been “moved with compassion” too. But you can bet I’d have taken a few steps back and healed the leper from afar. No need to risk infection of a highly contagious disease. But Jesus. Oh, how He loves. “He reached out and touched him.” Not even lesions, disfigurement and crippling stopped the Great Physician from physically laying hands on the man.


If only we were inclined and ready to get our hands dirty in understanding others, especially those we don’t agree with. Our culture touts tolerance, but tolerance is no substitute for healing love. Society tolerated the leper, but who dared love him except Christ?  It’s certainly possible to put up with others from afar.  But when we humbly venture into the murky unknown with a friend who is suffering from choices we’d never make, or a co-worker who scoffs at our beliefs, we are supported. Our fear of saying the wrong thing is replaced by the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength.


As we express the same willingness, compassion and love that Jesus Christ gave so graciously to the leper, we are rewarded with a deep sense of joy and fulfillment.  That’s more than I can hope for from a life of tolerance.  Can you think of anyone you “tolerate” or avoid because their life looks differently than you think they should?  What would it look like to reach out to them, even in a small way? Are you willing to pray for God to arrange the opportunity?


This is my Prayer: Father God, help me resist my natural tendencies to build walls instead of bridges. Lord give me the courage to befriend those who aren’t just like me.  Jesus draw me closer to You, so I that I can express Your love without resistance. God show me who You would have me reach out to.  In Jesus name, Amen.

June 2, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you settling for convenience over calling? 

Where are you settling for convenience over calling?  Jesus performed the most inconvenient act of human history.  He died on a cross to give us hope and life.  Yet, Jesus didn’t offer up His life in order for us to settle for a convenient life.  We are called to reflect Christ in everything we do, including having a willingness to lay down our life, our agenda, our comfort and our convenience for the benefit of others. We are charged with being His hands and feet to the world. Nothing destroys the control comfort has on our life like serving and loving others. Our faith strengthens when we see God working through us to make an impact.


God has made a way for us to be complete, both satisfied and secure, but the path requires us to humble ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. Our life in Him begins when we stop living for ourselves. The cross doesn’t become convenient, it becomes personal.  The antidote to pride, selfish ambition, and vain conceit is the act of humility and sacrifice. Humility takes root in our heart when we lay down our need for comfort and convenience and submit our ways before Him. In God’s economy, humility is the very path to greatness. When we realize God loves us, we are compelled to die to ourselves and regard others instead. We are free to live the life we have been given.

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8


By giving ourselves away, we gain so much more. This is where God stretches us and molds us into His image. It is odd to think that these interactions with others are just as much about God forming us than it is about giving hope to others or addressing the issues the world faces. The active sharing of our life, our faith, and our mission is precisely how we gain a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. “I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.” Philemon 1:6


If we delight in the Lord, Scripture promises God will give us the desires of our heart. By understanding these desires, we can more confidently determine God’s plan for our life. God fills us with the knowledge of His will so we might live the life God has laid out for us. We begin to see the call “to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with God” not as a one­time decision, but a purposeful intent that sets our gaze and directs our path. Clarity in regards to God’s will increases with every obedient step we take.  What situations are you facing where you need to display courage and faith?


This is my Prayer:  Father God, help me to extend mercy and to speak up when I see injustices. Lord let the foundation of my faith fuel the way I respond to the world around me.  Jesus rather than pursuing my agenda, I desire to make a difference in this world for Your glory. God give me the strength to not settle for a convenient life, but actively pursue one built on courage and faith.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

June 1, 2017, 5:00 AM

There is a reason why people see things differently than you.

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:5-9


The world we live in is a dangerous place. Not only are we faced with challenging issues, but getting everyone to agree on how to fix the brokenness seems impossible. We often respond to the issues fueled by our emotions rather than deeply held convictions. Why can’t everyone see things from our perspective? We reason that if everyone just thought like us than the world would be a much better place. Yet, we’re surrounded by people who look, think, live and act differently than us. These deep differences push us towards isolation.


We retreat to our safe spaces to protect us from controversial issues and opposing viewpoints. By setting up our different camps that don’t interact, we are hoping to find a place free from bias, conflict and criticism as well as threatening ideas and conversations. Fear drives us to our safe spaces.  These encampments never lead to unity but rather keep us dug in to our differences. Conversations don’t take place. Instead of seeking understanding, we get lazy and indifferent by labeling others. Throwing a label on the person we disagree with which fools us into believing we truly understand them.


Labels take something unbelievably complex and attempt to dumb it down into something more manageable. Just like a label on a can of soup, on the front it may say chicken noodle by a quick look at the ingredients proves there is more than chicken and noodles in that can.  Our misguided labels attempt to tell us very quickly what lies on the inside of the individual and the problem with labels is they are often very wrong.  Labels allow us to keep our hands clean from engaging in the messiness of this world. They are intended to keep us divided and segregated. While we remain in our safe spaces, the world continues to spiral out of control.


As believers in Christ, we must move first and get our hands dirty. We reflect Christ’s heart the most when we’re willing to enter the mess of someone else’s life. We surrender to Christ while moving towards each other. On the side of every issue is a human being. There is a reason why people see things differently than us. Rather than guess, a curiosity is needed to gain a true picture of their “why.” The best way to understand an issue is by understanding someone on the other side of the issue. The safe space we are looking for is a relationship that rests in love.


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I never let my passion for an issue be more important the people that issue affects. Lord instead of thinking I have everything figured out; I pray that I would remain humble and curious. Jesus give me boldness to pursue loving relationships that uplift others, include those on the other side of the issue. May I reflect Your heart in the way I respond to those around me. God help me to seek understanding and peace. In Jesus name, Amen.

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58   Entries 166-170 of 286