Reflecting God Together

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          Some of the most difficult and yet most rewarding things we can have in life is relationship. If we narrow that down to the relationships of Christian believers with one another it creates a unique, potentially volatile, and potentially powerful environment. The passion that our Savior invokes is beautiful but sometimes misplaced when believers try and reflect their gift or ideal onto other people on the same journey with Jesus. It’s difficult to see two Christians unable to respect and love the uniqueness that each brings to the Church and potentially to each other’s lives.

         There are many times that people expect a reaction, a particular overlap of ideals or opinion, and that causes turmoil that doesn’t need to exist. The Lord put an analogy on my heart and it prompted me to write because I was also shown a few pieces of scripture that stoked a fire for this topic.

       We see in Isaiah where even God Himself realizes that anger pushes away the potential relationship that only the love of His new covenant through Christ can allow. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made….I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. (Isaiah 57:16-17) This is often the case when emotion causes an angry reaction where no resolution can be reached and God’s love is absent. In turn a soft heart created through the reflected love of Jesus allows His light to be reflected in the situation and lasting growth and resolution to truly exist.

         A mistake we see, and the basis of my analogy, is when people have difficulty accepting the different views, reactions, and personalities in a church family. They want the relationship to involve a “mixing” of ideals to form a comfortable commonality. I imagine a person with a “red” personality/viewpoint trying to walk alongside a “blue” personality/viewpoint. In order for either of them to feel accepted or understood they try and create a comfortably “purple” relationship/situation. If the emotional/ideological mixture is an “oil based blue” and a “water based red” there is an unconformable tension. The boundaries that exist keep a resolution/relationship from existing. Now imagine for a moment that each of God’s children was allowed to reflect the light of God into the situation as they are loved and accepted for the beauty and uniqueness of their light. The two lights discussed above would make the beautiful purple light needed to flourish. Neither color requires mixing to be complete, but the completeness found in Christ reflects His light and allows their unique spirits to shine. Now imagine we have many lights reflecting God into the church. All of the colors in the light spectrum reflected together create a perfected white light that IS God’s love. their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

         I hope that anyone reading this can not only see the uniqueness and value of others but also those same qualities in yourself. God made you in His image to reflect His light into the darkness created by sin. When you pursue the Lord and encounter other lights on your journey, reflect yours as brightly as you can. You don’t have to be understood or understand the others. You don’t have to have a commonality to love one another and grow. If there are ten different colored lights in the same fixture/situation/church, the world will only see the glorious “white” of God reflected in union through love  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus: For Our Sake

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30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. (John 12:30)

        Many times as we read the gospels, where Jesus is walking among the people, he says something similar to the quote above. Lazarus died so that God could reveal Himself through Jesus to the people. The quote above was when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross and God audibly confirmed that His name has been glorified through the Son. God speaks out loud as Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan so that people would hear. We can think about the fact that any time Jesus prayed out loud to the Father it was for the sake of those who were witnessing it. He was part of the trinity, He is God, so any audible prayer was said so that you could hear what a perfect heart sounds like in communication with its creator.

        Now think about the times that Jesus did things for the people’s sake and they would or could not comprehend it. He was indignant as He went to the tomb of Lazarus to raise him because the people could not understand. They cried because they could not comprehend that ‘the Resurrection’ was walking in their midst. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Now imagine how His heart must have ached knowing that He was going to go to the cross to be crucified for a world that did not understand. Even His followers could not comprehend the way the events were unfolding at that time. Jesus went to the cross for our sins willingly but imagine His hurt when He was unable to help them understand. He did all thing for their sake even though they could not receive the message.

        We are called to be the image bearers of Jesus and to be witnesses to His life and message. Do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the lost? Do you take the extra steps to allow the spiritually immature to draw closer to understanding through you? We are called to live not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. That command sounds very big and might be intimidating since we are saved by a Savior who sacrificed His life literally. We can rest assured that the Spirit of God will make it possible, but also that our obedience to the Kingdom could be as simple as being patient and smiling while we explain the truth of God or being calm and showing the believers who are dependent on milk how to cut their spiritual teeth on the meat of God’s Word. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready (1 Corinthians 3:2) you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12) Take the time to love others for the sake of God’s Kingdom, let that love show even when it’s hard for the sake of the immature or lost, let your heart reflect the light and love of God for your sake as you draw closer to the perfect image of Christ. As you reach out to the world remember the blood poured out for your sake so that you could pour out love for someone else’s.

Open Eyes Toward Jesus

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       The religious leaders that Jesus encountered had been blinded by the law and the man-made religion that stemmed from it. The leaders created variations that profited them as leaders and at the same time kept the people blind to the purpose of the law, the message of the Torah, and the revelations of God through His prophets. It all pointed to the coming Messiah. When He stood in the midst of these leaders they were blind to their God in plain sight. They could not see that He was a fulfillment of prophesy and a fulfillment of the undefiled law. Let’s look at what Jesus says when He confronts these men and then take another step at what else can steal our sight. Knowledge of who Jesus is will help us to recognize Him with open eyes.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)

       Jesus is not referring to His judgement here. Think about how this applied to the religious judgement of the Jewish Leaders through the law. Jesus wanted the people to see the heart of God, and He wanted to fulfill the law (with love) that had separated the people from God. The purpose of Christ was to open our eyes to mercy through love and close them toward the judgement and condemnation of the law.

40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:40-41)

       The Pharisee were so lost in the religion they had created through faulty human interpretation of the law that they were too blind to see the author standing in front of them. The author and perfecter of our faith came to give a 3 year, one man ‘panel discussion’ about Himself (The Word) and they couldn’t let go of the picture they made in exchange for the real thing. When we look past Jesus and try to rely on religion, the residue of sin (guilt) remains because human effort cannot remove it. Only the blood of Christ is capable of removing the stains that sin has left on us.

 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

 All who came before me are thieves and robbers,…10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:8,10)

       We have all seen John 10:10 above used to refer to satan but it refers to a much larger group of things to which the devil belongs. Jesus says two versus prior that all who came before Him are thieves and robbers. Not only before Him in time but before we accepted Him for our salvation. It refers to false prophets, man-made religious ideas, false teachers, and even the law itself when compared to the Messiah. Anything other than Jesus: steals the opportunity to know God in personal relationship, kills the indescribable joy that only comes from Jesus, and destroys the freedom that comes from the promise of eternal life in the presence of God. While this definitely describes the deceiver it also points at anything that fills the empty place in your heart designed for Jesus. It could be people, beliefs, material things, or even sin that we haven’t put down at the foot of the cross. Jesus is the source of the abundant life we seek and anything less is robbing us of our sight and the full potential found in Christ.

Accused But Never Defeated

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In the Gospel of John, chapter 8 verses 2-11 we find a story we all know about the woman caught in adultery. This story has so many things in common with the way people treat each other even now. Let’s look at the story, broken down with comments, and please recognize the way Jesus not only defeated the manipulation but also reflected the love of God into the circumstance to reveal yet again how love triumphs over law, always.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

       Those who were not caught up in a selfish pursuit to condemn what would render their service to the law futile (Pharisee) were eager to drink from the living well. Those who were lost in their posturing, worldly religious position, and misguided interpretation of the Word were looking to discredit the Savior at any cost.

 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.

       There are many issues to take note of here. Where is the man caught in the act with her? Where is her husband who would have taken part in catching her in the act because nobody else would have been more aware of the situation? Also take note of the way they address Jesus: “Teacher” or “Master” in the King James Version. They are trying to find fault in Him and they address Him in a way that allows them to discredit Him from that very position, as if to mock Him and His teachings all together.

 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

       They are using the sin of the woman to try and condemn a sinless man. They are also using the law to condemn the love of God that Jesus came to express. The law is being used against the fulfillment of the law (Jesus). It’s not her sin they are worried about, they are trying to condemn Jesus at her expense and for their selfish purpose.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

       Jesus doesn’t give His attention to the accusation. He doesn’t feed into their plans to derail His teaching. In fact, His lack of attention makes them pour more emotion into their purpose. Jesus in His perfect wisdom brought them to a point where one statement would send them into retreat. He let their ignorance, selfishness, pride and emotion drive them into a place where they would expose themselves when the perfect nature of God was reflected into the situation. They had no foundation when the love of God washed over the situation.

 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

       Look at how the accusers left: Oldest to youngest, leaders to followers, high stature to low stature. I see the elevated men leading the younger men into this confrontation. The Pharisee that have their worldly position and authority at stake are followed by the mislead men to who they are teaching the law. This is a common problem where people blindly follow fallible leaders and never seek God on their own to form the relationship that allows God to grow in them. They are blind to a truth that they have never been exposed to.

 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)

       Now we see the perfect love of God triumph over the law. We see the fulfillment of the law through Jesus break through the constraints of religion. We see the light of our Savior break through the darkness of accusation and condemnation.

      Let yourself stand there and be in that moment. Watch Jesus write on the ground. What is the Spirit telling you He wrote? Think about that. See the love of God defeat the law. See Jesus triumph over religion. See hearts changed and not condemned. Take note of God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s love, and the salvation found in His Son.

A Savior that Never Lets You Go

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       Once you give your heart to God and accept Jesus as your Savior, you belong to the One that will never let you go, never cast you out. Just as a good father will never cast out his child, your perfect Father unconditionally holds on to the hearts given to Him .

 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

      We can know that our knowledge of God and His Son is because the Holy Spirit has drawn our hearts into unity with the Father. God calls His children to Him and through our perfect Savior we find salvation and eternal life. We were chosen by God to walk in His love.

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

       Many will say they know God but their life will bear no fruit. They will not give their hearts entirely to Him and know the peace and joy that can only come through the creator of the universe. God calls the hearts that He knows will belong to Him. The religious deeds and meaningless words do not fool a God who sees a man’s heart. He also sees the intentions of a misguided heart. Good deeds from a foul heart do not please God as much as a misguided deed from pure heart. An imperfect deed done in love pleases a God who sees through human frailty.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

       God cherishes His children; and Jesus, who came to earth to reconcile us to the Father through His perfect sacrifice, will never let you go, never leave you, and will love you without condition. Jesus will leave the 99 to find you when your heart wanders because He cherishes what belongs to Him. Give your heart and life to the perfect Father, who leaves it in the care of His perfect Son, who gave His life to make it pure and give it eternal life. Be held by the one who will never let you go.

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)

Step Up, Leap Forward

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Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic (Hebrew) called Bethesda, (Bethsaida) which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews (Jewish Religious Leaders) said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” (John 5:2-10)

       As we read the story above from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John we see a story that at first we may skim over as Jesus healing a man. We appreciate the miracle as our Savior walked the earth in order to fulfill the law and bridge the gap between us and our Heavenly Father. But we miss the depth found in this short passage. Let us look deeper and note the commonality this invalid has with many believers today.

       This man had been ill/paralyzed for a long time and that can easily correspond to a believer being stifled in their walk as they sit around the “pool” waiting for opportunities to comfortably step up and apply the Word of God to their life. When things are easy and worldly behavior will suffice, they blissfully move while they neglect the weak foundation they are building for their life. They get to a point where they have to move out of worldly comfort and walk in a reliance on God, which will also cause them to walk in the ridicule of the world. Look above at verse 10 and see how the Jewish leaders didn’t marvel at the fact that a paralyzed man walked after 38 years; their first reaction was to attack him for carrying his bed! (Blinded by law)

       Also notice that Jesus asks the man in verse 6 if he wanted to be healed. This is the same offer that walking with our Lord gives us. We can overcome all of the obstacles in life when we accept the yoke of Jesus and the healing he offers us as we “lay next to the pool” paralyzed by the constraints of stepping out of worldly safety. Notice that in verse 7 the man actually never says yes to Jesus’ offer of healing. He starts with an excuse of why he couldn’t accomplish it without the Lord’s help. Such a simple story sounds like many believers today: paralyzed in worldly/self-imposed constraints, unwilling to let Jesus step into the difficulty, making excuses as to why their earthly power should have been enough, and ridiculed by people when his faith was exercised.

       Notice that: Jesus was the answer to his healing, he was unable to accomplish this miracle on his own, he was too lost in self-reliance to answer yes to the healing of Jesus, and was ridiculed because his healing set him apart from the world. How many of us are paralyzed and afraid to show our Jesus to the world? How many of us are lost in our self-reliance and self-doubt to allow God to move in and through us? How many of us are sitting by the “pool” looking to the world for help? Are you afraid the world will ridicule the light you shine when Jesus fills your heart?

     Step up and be healed! Step up and shine your light! Step up and be set apart (holy)! Step up and let the ridicule draw out the insecurities of those around you! Those insecurities don’t belong to you in JESUS! Step up so those insecurities are confronted by the love of your Savior! Bear His image, show His heart and shine His light. Do not be afraid. Do not be ashamed. Be the vessel of the Holy Spirit you are called to be. Step up and watch how God can cause you to leap forward!

Is God What You Expect Him To Be?

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I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know… I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:4-6)

The context of this verse is the prophet Isaiah describing how Cyrus, the King of Persia who would rule 150 years later, was going to be used by God to direct the path of His chosen even though he was not a follower himself. It goes to show that God will use all things for the good of those who love him. Your Heavenly Father will use the faithless to be examples of a Godless life, and that sin and evil to convict us leading us back to the joy found in His goodness. God created all things and even those things that are found in the darkness of this world can point us back to the light of Jesus. Many things that we know are not of God are meant to straighten our walk, allow us opportunities to show God to that situation, and develop our spiritual maturity.

There are many times when believers put up emotional and spiritual barriers to keep the fragile joy they cling to intact. It’s that kind of believer that leaves the lost feeling rejected or unworthy. The things that are being blocked out are potentially tools from God to grow faith, compassion, and wisdom. The joy found in Christian isolation is not what God has in mind. That isolation stunts growth and reduces the reliability on God for that joy. Isolated joy is fragile and conditional, Heavenly joy is the light that should not be hidden when set upon a hill. Don’t build walls so high that we miss God or Godly opportunity in all things. Don’t let the ugliness of the world tarnish the opportunity be a reflection of the Holy Spirit.

Look and be amazed at all of the ways God shows you His glory and all of the unexpected ways He gives you and opportunity to grow. Don’t live in a box of expectation and try to place God in there with you. Remember that the Pharisee  had an image of the Savior and how He would act, then killed Him when He didn’t fit their expectation.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[ they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)