Springing You Free to Love…

Above all else, Christians should be defined by agape love, the sacrificial, unselfish love of Jesus.  Yet, I find many Christians are bogged down with selfish ambition, pride, dogmatism, unawareness, bitterness, jealousy, disorder, and immoral thoughts. As a result, there is no difference between our behavior than those who are in the world.  God wants us to be His light “loving others as He loved us” (John 13:34).  How can we do this?

1 Timothy 1:5 tell us, “The ultimate aim of the Christian is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and a genuine faith” (JB Phillips NT).  Love springs from three things:

A pure heart.  If sin lingers in our heart, we are not freed up to love.  Only the Holy Spirit can love like Jesus.  Our heart must allow Him the freedom to live out the love of Jesus through us. Psalm 24:3&4 exclaims, “Who may ascend onto the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to deceit, and has not sworn deceitfully.” Matthew 5:8 states, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God.” God loves those who have a pure heart enabling them to love like Jesus.

A good conscious.  Paul the Apostle when testifying before the Jewish High Priest and religious leaders “looked earnestly at the council, and said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).  He said the same thing to Felix the Governor, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).  Why could Paul live the dynamic life and love others the way that he did?  Once your conscience is free from guilt and wrongdoings, there is power to love.  Live without hypocrisy, liberated to be an expression of His love!

A sincere faith.  In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul reminded Timothy of the sincere faith and dynamic lives of his grandmother and mother, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” Sincere means free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings. Some synonyms of “sincere” are heartfelt, wholehearted, honest, genuine, real, true, earnest, fervent, cordial, and devout.  Do people say that about your faith?  More importantly, as you look inside your heart in full transparency, can you say that about yourself?

Hebrews 10:22 sums up the above powerfully, “Let’s approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”  God enjoys spending time with people who come to him with a sincere faith, a good conscience, and a pure heart.  When they do, He frees them up to love.

Two Kingdoms: Choose Carefully

To me, the most wonderful, life giving passage ever written is found in John 3.  Conversely, it becomes a regretful passage to others because of the condition of their heart. Here’s what it says, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Two kingdoms are described in the above biblical passage. 

One is the Kingdom of God described by love, truth, and light…

  • This love is at such a depth that God was willing to sacrifice His only Son to save and forgive any human being of their sin no matter the current condition of their life, where they live, color of their skin, ethnicity, physical appearance, or past sin.
  • In essence, God is saying that you cannot out sin His grace and mercy. 
  • This gift is freely given by God.  As with any gift, the only condition is that you must receive it.
  • Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life and is not condemned.  This is the Greatest Gift ever…eternal life with no condemnation.
  • Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The other is the kingdom of the devil described by darkness and flesh:

  • Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
  • This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
  • Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
  • These folks reject truth choosing to live in the flesh…what a trategy!

Galatians 5:19 shows the actions  of the lifestyle of those who reject God’s invitation and choose to live in “the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”  The devil is a liar who tempts and deceives then accuses.  He captivates people by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” selling out God for fleshly lusts.  They trade eternity for a few years of fleshly living.

On the other hand, those who choose God’s Son as their Savior and Lord bear the following fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22&23). 

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13&14).

Two Kingdoms Offered: Choose Carefully.

The reason to be thankful

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4-5‬

Take Another Look!

An amazing experience was recorded in Mark 8:22-25 between Jesus and a blind man, 22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 

Out of this brief episode comes some wonderful teaching:

Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  When you think about it, there was no way that this blind man could locate Jesus for help on his own.  He couldn’t see!  With the depth of the darkness in the world today, how many folks do we touch on a daily basis that are spiritually blind and can’t get to Jesus on their own?  They need help from others.  In this case, “some people” (ordinary people, no distinguishing accolades for Mark to highlight…just people) took this blind man to Jesus.  Then, they begged Jesus to touch him.  I don’t know about you, but I hate the word, beg.  When I think about begging, it takes me to bothersome people at congested intersections or along busy sidewalks in our cities without any pride, humiliating themselves by asking others for money.  You know what?!  I am a jerk.  Romans 3:11&12 states “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  Without God, I am worthless!  Once I clearly see how wonderful our Holy God is and recognize without His grace and mercy, I am no better than a beggar. These people begged Jesus to touch this guy.

(Jesus spat) on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” Not exactly the way you would do it today but if you are blind, you need to feel something. I can assure you the loving hands of Jesus tenderly touching his eyes rubbing in the spit was marvelous.

(The beggar) looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.  Things were blurry and scary.  I see “trees walking around.”  Isn’t this what we see when we first go to Jesus with a problem?  Things are blurry, disconcerting, and fearful.   Most times, we stop after our initial encounter with Jesus.  The problem is just too confusing and huge. 

Notice what happens next between Jesus and the beggar.  Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  The 2nd touch of Jesus’ hands on the blind man’s eyes resulted in the man seeing everything clearly.  Here’s the lesson for us.  We go to Jesus onceand see trees walking and give up.  If we humbly go back to Jesus persistently AND TAKE ANOTHER LOOK, we discover that our eyes become  20×20 vision.

  • Matthew 6:33, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. The tense of the verb “seek” should be translated “continually seek.”  You don’t go to God once and see trees walking but seek Him continually so that you see everything clearly.
  • Matthew 7:7&8, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  The accurate translation is “Keep asking…keep seeking…keep knocking” and you will receive, find and the door will be open so that you can see clearly.

Take another look!  You will see clearly if you do.

Kingdom People Building Bridges

In Luke 17 the Pharisees are asking Jesus when the kingdom of God would come and he replies: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Some translations have this as: “the kingdom of God is in your midst”, some say it is “at hand”. 

The idea is that God’s Kingdom is here, it has arrived in the person of Jesus and we are living in these times now.  Cynthia Bourgeault says: “The kingdom is not a place to go but a place you come from.  It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place”, she says: “you don’t die into it: you awaken into it…” 

Bourgeault also writes: “The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation – not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans”.  With Jesus, the kingdom is here and as his followers we are one with him and one another.  Or we should be living this way.

In this world that seems so divisive let’s live in the reality of the kingdom being here now.  Let’s be kingdom people and build bridges, even with those different than us.  Jesus urges us to leave the 99 to go after the one the stray (Mt 18:12),  he purposefully goes to the people the “religious” ones avoid (Mk 2:15).  Let’s be people who expand God’s kingdom.

We must stand for truth but let’s do it in a kingdom way, a way that can be received.  You can’t “get to” the other side without a bridge.

Stop Quarreling!

God’s Word has a simple message that all of us as believers need to hear.  Romans 12:18 states, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  I know what you are thinking, “How can a person live in peace dealing with the crazy, hurtful, diabolical, aggressive, in your face, manipulative people who inhabit planet earth?!” Verses 19-21 tell how this is achieved, 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.   In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”  Key points in this passage are:

  • Leave room for God’s wrath… “It is mine to avenge”
  • I will repay says GodHe assures you things will be taken care of.  This may not be handled immediately but He will take care of the situation in “due time.” Offload relationships to God.  This gives you the ability and freedom to continue to love.
  • Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.  I recognize that this can be incredibly difficult; however, God wants you to be light in the midst of darkness.  Relationships are the vehicle that God uses to display light.

Leviticus 19:18 tells us to not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LordWhat we do even as believers is seek pay back. That seems to be fair in the law of man but nothing close to the grace and mercy of the Lord.  During the time you seek revenge, get revenge and the aftermath, you are walking in the flesh out of fellowship with God.  Please stop quarreling!

James 4 gives a blunt view of many of your relationships whether at home, extended family, former spouses, work or elsewhere, What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. Christ’s agape love is expressed by the way you handle relationships.  How are you doing?

Christians should be assertive.  Ephesians 5:16 states for us “to speak the truth in love.”  Assertive expressions never begin with you neveror you alwayswhich are attacking, judgmental, and condescending. Begin sentences with “I.”  I feel, I think, I want, I need statements deal with the issue in non-combative ways.  If the other person wants to quarrel or argue and tempers begin to rise, you will not have an edifying conversation.  Do not get drawn into a me vs. you quarrel. 

I finish with these verses:

  • As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife (Proverbs 26:21).
  • And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:24).

Stop quarreling!   

Scatter Brained or Locked In?

It doesn’t take long before people recognize that I am totally ADD.  I have four or five things going on in my mind at the same time and feel totally comfortable with it!  Right in the middle of one statement, I will get sidetracked and jump onto another completely different thought.  The crazy thing is that several minutes later I can jump back onto the original thought thinking that you will be able to complete the mental gymnastics to keep up with me!  If around several conversations, I try to keep up with all of them at the same time.  In my case, I may hear enough to think that I will be an absolute authority only to find out that I took things totally out of context. It is like driving on a four-lane highway without any rules.  Collisions are for sure going to happen.  Seems like I am the one who needs help!! 😊

Alright smarty pants!  You may be Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Type A.  You are very motivated and goal driven, and it is very difficult to get you off track.  Quick question for you, what if you are on the wrong track or your goals are not God driven?  If you are like my Pam, if it is on her checklist for the day, get out of the way!  She will either get it done or go to bed discouraged.  If you get in the way of the checklist, you may become a speed bump! 

All of our mental tires need to be rotated and aligned periodically.  The following are some verses that will help you sort things out and get you back aligned with the Lord’s will:

  • Isaiah 26:3, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
  • Psalms 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.
  • Colossians 3:1-3, You have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  Is your mind set?  If so, on what?
  • Hebrews 12:1&2, Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  The Lord wants us to set our minds on Jesus and let Him be the author and finisher of our goals and the way we think.
  • Romans 12:2, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.  God is in the business of transforming our minds fundamentally and radically making us new people readjust how we think and what our goals should be.

Whether you are Type A or ADD, meditate on the above verses.  Take your time.  Don’t rush through them!  Ask yourself several simple questions.  Am I placing Christ first in my life? Am I trusting Him completely as I flesh out life?  Is there anyone that I need to initiate the journey to get things right between us?  Is there something that I’m not doing that I should be?  No matter the behavioral style, God cans use you to love and minister to others showing the Lord’s mercy, grace, and power.

We MUST pray

Even when the house of Israel kept defying God, He practiced love and patience with them. Yes, He punished them for their disobedience, but then restored them when they turned from their wicked ways. In reading the prophet Ezekiel, God spoke through him to the people. The nations regarded Israel as “The people of Yahweh”, and it makes me think of present day believers. Aren’t we the people of Yahweh? So prophetic speaking of old may not end with just a particular incident, but may carry through the ages, for as God once spoke, it remains vital to all people that His word is true and never changes. So this is what was happening to the people because of their disobedience and their conduct. “When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said about them, ‘These are the people of Yahweh, yet they had to leave His land in exile. Then I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations – the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh – the declaration of the Lord God – when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.” Ezekiel 36: 20-23 You have probably been concerned that God is acting judgment against America, this once vibrant nation. As I read today, and I understand not to believe all I read, but as I read, it seems like this virus has men in a big tussle about shutting things down. Businesses are going to collapse; people will be out of work; things will become hard, and we are worried about what the government will do. But I want to tell you today, we should be worrying about what God will do. Our nation is putting God on the back shelf, if keeping Him around at all. People want the government to do something, but I would hope that every one of us will start praying for God to move. After all His own words in the time of bad conduct is that He will honor His holy name, even through judgment. He will keep His people under His wing. He may very well bring on calamity such as what is happening today, but He is trying to get our attention to what is happening with all nations that He has once blessed, and I know HE wants to bless again. But what will we do, what can we do? We can reach out to the only One who can help, the One we should know beyond a shadow of a doubt, He will respond to our pleas. I for one will petition daily on behalf of our nation, not because I want it back the old way, but I desire to see a revival, so that the Lord will be glorified when the turnaround happens. Let’s not give credit to vaccine makers, or governments for help. Let’s go directly to God who is the only One who can bring us out of this. He has done it before, and He will do it again. But the glory and honor belong to Him and Him alone. Our Lord, our Savior, or God, Yahweh! So look around you brothers and sisters, You don’t have to go to specific groups, just listen to the Lord, petition Him on behalf of a nation, to restore His rightful place to a nation that once had its motto: IN God we trust. Let’s start trusting and bring others back to the place where they will also put their trust in God. Please spread the word, THE WORD of God, to pray for healing that only He can give. Pray for the nation and the world to recognize the One true God, Yahweh. Then perhaps God will once again bring glory to Himself by answering our prayers.

That’s Really Good News

Don’t you love good news?!  Yesterday, the wife of a dear friend told me that his surgery went really well with an expected speedy, complete recovery.  That’s really good new!  My wife, Pam, just graduated from rehab for shoulder replacement. That’s really good news!  When you hear that a newborn baby comes into this world birthed to a wonderful, Godly couple, that’s really good news!  When someone receives the word from a Dr. that cancer has gone into full remission, that’s really good news!  When you hear that a recovering addict has experienced sobriety for a year, a rebellious child has sorted out his/her life, an individual has fought out of a long season of depression and despondency, a marriage has been restored, that’s really  good news!.

Many of us find ourselves buried under the pile and burdens and cares of this world losing the zeal and joy of being a Christian.  We forget the liberating impact the gospel once had on us when we experienced it personally.  What was really good news, is now a distant memory.  Apathy, hardness, embarrassment, and hypocrisy are some of the descriptions that now come to mind.  Yet, there is an underlying quiet voice barely audible in the deep recesses of your unconscious mind whispering how different and fresh your life once was.  Currently, you may feel like a failure, a reject, an idiot, bitter, hurt, despondent, confused, even hopeless wondering how you have gotten so far away.  Do you realize that no matter your predicament, how nasty, sick, or dark your life has become, there is some really good news? God is pursuing you whether you realize it or not. He didn’t move away from you.  You moved away from Him and may feel too far gone.  These feelings are lies from the pit of hell. The truth is found in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  I don’t care who or where you are or what you are doing, God is one honest, humble prayer away from you to experience His gracious, merciful love… right now! Transparently, ask Him to forgive and cleanse you. 1 John 1:9 is an awesome testament, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Make sure you understand what God just stated here.  Confess sharing your sin humbly and He will forgive all your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  Never forget, this is not based on your faithfulness or righteousness. It’s based on God being “faithful and righteous.”  That’s really good news!

  • Romans 1:16 declares, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
  • Romans 6:23 is staggering, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The really good news is God is at the entrance of your heart continuously knocking with a desire to come into your life to heal you.  Just simply open the door taking the first steps towards forgiveness and wholeness.  It may be a journey, but Jesus will be with you every step of the way.  That’s really good news!

His Power Will Rest on You

Power resides on the elite.  The strongest, richest, most beautiful, smartest; highest social or financial status, business or political positions have the most power in our world.  TV, the press, magazines, and the internet can’t get enough of these people.  Power seems to “rest” on them and many others who are ambitiously, tirelessly, and even ruthlessly trying to reach elite, powerful status.  Crazy thing about it, most of these folks on a personal level are train wrecks.  Why?  There’s always a lust for more.

In the spiritual world of Jesus, powerful people are very different than what is described above.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9&10, Paul the Apostle explains what Jesus considers powerful, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Jesus is looking for people who recognize and confess their weakness; people who are willing to trust Him completely with the management of their lives becoming a conduit of His power.  In fact, He says his “power is made perfect in (their) weakness.”  A great analogy here is the conduction of electricity through metal.  It is extremely difficult to conduct electricity through strong metals such as iron or steel.  Why?  There is too much resistance.  However, electricity is easily conducted in a pliable, weak metal like copper.  Why?  There is little resistance.  The weaker the metal the less resistance and stronger the electrical current.  Electricity is perfected in weakness.  Likewise, the power of Jesus is perfected in our weakness.  Why?  There is little resistance.  Paul makes an amazing comment.  Christ’s “power rests” on the weak.  Then, he summarizes it all up in a closing statement.  “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This is huge if you who are struggling in your personal lives.  You may have just gone through a divorce or lost a job and feel like a failure.  You may be one who aspired a certain status in life and have not measured up to family or personal expectations and feel like a reject.  You may have lost joy and don’t know who to turn to in this miserable COVID financial environment. You may be super self-conscious about your weight or your physical looks.  You may have no meaningful relationships. As a result, you are super lonely.  You may be like me buried in depression and hyper-anxiety and see no hope.  Believe it or not, each of you are in a perfect position to establish and grow a relationship with Jesus.  His power can be perfected in your weakness.  Don’t let self-talk keep you away from His all accepting grace which will be sufficient for you. 

His power will rest on you.  In your weakness, He is strong