LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 7

Romans 12:14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great some-body.

As I think about the first sentence of this scripture I realize I have momentary enemies. These enemies are people in traffic who do rude and thoughtless things to my student drivers. They do things like lay on their horn while the new driver is trying think through a situation.

When these things happen the big brother in me rises up, and I want to jump out of the car and strangle them. I never act on this impulse, but I’m a long way from blessing them. Fortunately my anger quickly subsides as I’m reminded that this individual has probably had a rough day. I can then say a prayer for them. I’m still trying to get to the bless them part.

These three verses provide stimulation for us to look beyond ourselves and see the needs of those around us. Good relationships develop when we realize it’s not all about us. I’m very thankful that God’s Spirit is always there to help me get beyond myself. I always need his help.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 6

Romans 12:11-13 (MSG) Don’t burn out; keep yourself fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

There are many self-help books addressing the problem of Christians burning out, but self-help is misguiding. I think that being, “alert servants of the Master,” is a key to avoiding burn out. Servants do what the master has instructed them to do. So, I ask myself, “am I doing what Jesus instructed me to do, or am I doing what I think I should do?” The Lord has given us each the gifting and ability to do what he asks us to do. If we step out beyond that we are likely to burn out.

I think it’s important to always be aware that living the Christian life is first and foremost living in faith. Trusting all things to Jesus brings us great freedom from striving. Jesus did all that was necessary for our salvation and eternal life. It is done; it is finished.

God’s Spirit has come to us sealing us for eternity. And his Spirit is working within us to bring about a heart of love. Our main work is simply to surrender to him and trust him.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 5

Romans 12:9-10 (MSG) Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

In the NIV the first sentence of verse 9 reads, “Love must be sincere.” Sincere love is rooted in the love we receive from God. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Therefore, we don’t have to fake it. For Christians, love comes as a result of our connection to God. His Holy Spirit lives within us and builds in us this sincere love.

Evil counters love with selfishness. We should run from that. Love produces good, and we should hold on to that. Be a good friend by loving so deeply that you are more concerned for your friend’s success than yours.

Love should be the center of being a Christian. Jesus said it like this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13: 34-35)

GOD’S GIFT FOR YOU

John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not parish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Christmas is a celebration of God’s love for his creation. His love is so deep that he gave his Son as a gift to us. With his advent, the Son brought to us eternal life.

John 3:18, 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.

If you don’t believe then you’re condemned. However, the gift still remains before you. Reach out and take hold of Jesus, and you will have eternal life.

There’s a great fog of lies to hide this great and eternal gift from you. Just reach out in faith, and the fog will begin to clear. Jesus will be there to draw you to him.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

FREEDOM IN JESUS

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.

The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.

Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.

HUMANS WITHOUT GOD

In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes about the state of humans without God. It is a scathing account of what we are like when we turn our backs on God. The frightening part of reading his words is that I see the potential for these evils in myself.

I have just finished the intense season of my job as a driving instructor. When the high schoolers are out for the summer, we’re on the road for many hours. If I had any doubts about Paul’s discourse on the state of humans, all those hours in traffic have been a visual clarification of his accuracy.

As I watched humans aggress upon their fellow man, and continually endanger the lives of others, I was appalled. Then I remembered. Almost every self-centered uncaring act was something that I had done. Yes, even as a Christian.

What did I learn from this? I desperately need God. Every moment of every day I need God. Only in him can I be loving, compassionate, and forgiving. These are the traits I need in every situation, especially in traffic.

A TRANSFORMED MIND

One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality. “Let’s go shopping” is the call. We get to buy things and spend money. There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend. Running out of money is a definite downer. We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money. Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.

I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking. Jesus taught his disciples to think differently. He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God. Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,

            So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).

If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking. He will transform our minds. Let me recap what Paul is saying. We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering. Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us.   Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us. So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us. This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction. The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”

Repost from 6/2018

STAY WITH GOD

1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.

I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.

God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.

WHAT CONSTRAINS YOU?

I was reading in the book of Job a couple of days ago when I came upon these words, “The fear of God has kept me from these things – how else could I ever face him?” (Job 31:23 The Message) Job says these words after he describes a long list of sins he did not committed. What constrained Job was his relationship with God.

These words and my thoughts about these words sent me into self-evaluation. I asked myself, “what constrains me.” After much contemplation my final answer to the question of what constrains me is I love God. How could I ever face him if I indulged in things that would displease him? Well, unfortunately, I have indulged in many things that would displease him. I find that I am unable to please God on my own. What a dilemma, I love God and want to please him, but I can’t seem to restrain myself.

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma and then says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Christ Jesus our Lord!” I need a savior. I can’t do it on my own. Jesus has not only saved me from sin, but he has sent me a helper, his Holy Spirit. God has done everything to help me in my desire to please him. When I fail; He forgives me. How amazing is that!