Marks of the True Christian (Romans 12:9-21)

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Let love be genuine. (Truly place the well-being of others above your own.) Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Allow evil to cause uneasiness in your spirit. Don’t let it have a foothold, sin should not be overlooked in your life. Focus on the things of God and see His peace and joy in those things, not worldly imitations.) 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Always encourage and lift up one another as you would a best friend. Be a force that lifts up and never tears down.) 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Don’t be lazy in pursuing the purpose of God with your life. Let the passion for Jesus in your spirit show through as you serve the Lord and make His name known through your reflection of His nature, which He has placed in you through the Holy Spirit.) 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Seek first the Kingdom and God’s purpose, then your hope will find a foundation in Him. Allow God to work through tribulation to combat complacency. Seek Him in prayer for strength, direction and understanding.) 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Be one of the tools God uses to build up the Kingdom. Allow the gift He has placed in you to contribute to the body of believers known as the Church. Be accommodating and open to the many gifts that come together in the name of Jesus.)

            The following verses are completely contradictory to the ways of the world. This is proof that they are of God because His ways are contradictory to the ways of fallen man. His light opposes the darkness and eternal life through mercy opposes the death in sin. If our hearts and actions were to resemble the description in the following verses, we would change the world to resemble something closer to what God designed originally. Let your own well-being be laid aside for the bigger picture that is God’s Kingdom. Suffer by letting your personal satisfaction and comfort, which are temporary, become second to growing the people around you. The ways that the Holy Spirit describes through Paul below are the real way to win hearts for Jesus and truly love those that are in this world. Imagine the compassion below being shown to you at your lowest point, when you were at your emotional ugliest. How much of the darkness that had crept into your heart would have been forced out by the light of God shown through the unconditional love and self-sacrifice shown below. Sacrificing yourself isn’t always laying down your life. Sometimes is laying down your comfort, your pride, or the walls you’ve built to protect yourself from emotional pain. Let Jesus take that from you. Place your fear at His feet. Let your fearless vulnerability draw the lost to the Lord. Be different because the Kingdom you serve does not resemble the world that it is saving.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty (do not exalt yourself above another), but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (do not be too blind to see God’s new direction) 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Even at the expense of you comfort and pride) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Their wrong of another will be magnified in the light of your love through the conviction of God) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Overcome the evil of this earth with the goodness of God. Be the difference you were designed to be.)

Exponential Jesus

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          It seems that some people have an easier time with obedience and their walk with the Lord. We should never compare our walk with anyone else’s because we were fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely design for a purpose that we may not fully understand until me meet our Savior in Heaven. But since the community we are called to with other believers has us bearing one another’s burdens, I’d like to explore part of the psychology of our walk with God. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

          God begets God. When we focus on God and His design described in His Word we develop a sustaining focus on Him. That focus allows His way to permeate through us and grow in everything we do. As our focus grows the ways that God can intervene in all facets if our life become clear. The Bible talks about lineage and family trees and uses the term begets. Father begets his son and that son begets his son and so forth. The definition of beget says: “give rise to; bring about.” A focus on the ways of God gives rise to more God in you and make God more able to use you through your obedience. This works for His attributes as well. Peace begets peace, joy begets joy, love begets love, and faith begets faith. When the power of God allows the fruits of His Spirit to take root in your heart, they become your new natural, your new foundation. The more you see these attributes growing in you and manifesting in your life the easier it becomes to allow them to move in and through you. Your confidence in the power of God grows and the way He wants to use you becomes clearer. This is why Jesus gave the instruction to seek first the Kingdom. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

          Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Sin begets sin. The deceiver looks for opportunity to turn small sin into a snare and let that compound into larger sin. This can become true as we justify our sin and make it so common that its impact becomes ignored so it grows unchecked. The deceiver can also turn the conviction of sin into guilt and let sin grow through a weakened focus on the Lord. We are told not to allow the deceiver access to our minds to prevent this. Give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27) If we allow sin to become common and don’t stand up for our conviction we let the new normal drift from God. The more slack we give to the darkness the more it will take, and the pull away from the light becomes faster and less obvious. This is true both in society and in our individual walks with the Lord. Take inventory of your heart and see what you may have been letting slide by and turn those things over to God. His love and mercy are made available to us in Jesus. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

         This idea of exponential growth in the Spirit or decay into sin is part of the way our minds work. The term that I have heard used is ‘positive feedback loop.’ What you feed back into your system will be the basis for your next steps. Letting God in will allow Him to guide your steps as He does for the righteous. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way. (Psalm 37:23) In the same way letting the ways of the deceiver become normal will feed the darkness and dim the light God has placed into your heart. Through God’s perfect love and mercy He allows us to turn back into His arms at any place in this journey. He wants the positive cycle to begin when you are ready to let a moment in His love beget an eternity in His presence.

Jesus Centered Marriage/Relationship

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         God created us, man and woman, in His image. As men and women we are created to represent a duality in God that He has designed to be unified in covenant marriage. Man is not designed to be alone so God created a partner to sanctify him in a threefold relationship with Him. 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) The Bible describe God’s design for marriage and also His desire for the role of the husband and wife as individuals to accomplish His bigger purpose. Each piece of God’s kingdom has a purpose that it cannot understand when isolated, but when it is woven into the tapestry that is God’s kingdom the beauty of the larger picture is undeniable. The same holds true in marriage. A spouse’s Christ-centeredness allows them to fulfill their God-designed role within the relationship. A couple with individual foundations in Jesus can grow together and support one another as opposed to requiring constant support from only their partner. Let’s look at the individual roles in marriage and how that shows itself to the world in a Jesus centered marriage.

           Men are called to be the head of their marriage. The requirement for that to function according to God’s will is his submission to Christ. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3). Submitting to Christ is following His example and making sure that your actions resemble the example Jesus gives to us. Men should be leaders with a heart that resembles Christ through submission to Him. This heart shows itself through gentleness, selflessness and understanding. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19) Men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27) If read carefully this scripture shows that the husband can directly contribute to the sanctification of his wife through the love of Jesus their relationship. A woman under the spiritual covering of a Godly man can blossom into the woman God designed her to be. She can thrive in her beauty and bring that beauty into the world through her relationship with Christ and her husband.

           Women are the most important source of support through respect for their husbands. Women can shine the love of Jesus in their relationship through grace and patience in their marriage. Just as the Christian husband is called to submit to the Lord, the Christian wife is called to submit to a submitted husband. This may be viewed as weakness but it is actually a position of strength. Christ’s power is made perfect in what the world calls weak. The heart of a good man is softened by the grace and mercy of God shown through his wife. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12) Having a Godly woman as an unconditional support creates passion and power in a man. A soft and safe place to land each day renews energy to face the next. Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:1-4) It’s through love that a wife can soften the heart of her husband made calloused by the attacks of the world, more so than any words.

                  The most beautiful part about God’s covenant is also the most difficult for humans to deal with. That part is the fact that one half depends on the other. Man’s ability to love and cherish is wife is made possible by her respect and support, and a woman’s respect and support hinders on her feeling loved and cherished. This is where a reliance on each person’s relationship with Jesus is so vital. His example of love was unconditional. While we were all still sinners He gave His life to redeem us. We did nothing to earn His love just like the actions of one spouse should not dictate the actions of the other. This is also where the selflessness of love shows its power. Nothing wins a heart like love that is undeserved and unconditional. If a man leads in love, his wife will support in love if both are centered in Christ. It is through a marriage founded in Christ-like love that we can always show God to the world. Children can see what the love of the Father looks like through their parents and these marriages become role models for the lives that the Lord allows them to impact. We are not meant to do this alone, and we don’t have to when each partner understands their role and what that looks like in the bigger picture designed by God. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2) People sometimes forget that even though we are married we are still brother and sisters in Christ. Bear the burden of your spouse and restore them in a spirit of gentleness. Let God and His love for you fuel a selfless and unconditional love that makes your marriage all that God desires it to be.

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)

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)

Did God Create Evil?

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In a word: Yes!

Have you ever heard the question of how could God allow evil to exist? The simple answer is that evil would not exist without God. A verse sprung this thought into existence, or should I say allowed a way to put a big concept into words. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7) What this says to me is that evil would not exist without good, darkness would not exist without light, joy would not exist without sorrow. How would we recognize one without the other? Darkness is nothing without a reference. Darkness is simply the absence of a real thing, in this case light. Cold isn’t real on its own, it is again the absence of another thing, heat. God is the source of all good and created the light of our world. The absence of Godliness in this world is where we become aware of evil and darkness. The fact that God exists to bring us light, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control is the only way that the opposite can exist as the world turns from is creator. So yes, God did create evil by existing and offering His glory to His creation. He also created free will and allowed us to choose to walk in His light or turn from it and suffer in darkness. God is not evil and His hand does not create the harshness of this world. Those things exist when a hardened and sinful heart falls into pride and rejects the light. God seeks to hold your hand as you reflect His light into the darkness in the earth. He wants you to walk in His presence for all eternity in Heaven. Heaven also has a counterpart: Hell. Hell is simply the absence of all things that God offers. We can never say anyone is sent to Hell by the same concept. Hell belongs to those who reject God and His glory. That decision is simply honored and they are given that wish for eternity. Hell exists because people chose to have a life without God and in turn are allowed to live in that desire. If we remove God, we have Hell; which this world resembles more and more as it falls into selfishness and pride. Be the light, reflect God’s goodness, shine your light on the path that leads to Jesus, and know that turning from darkness leads you into the arms of Jesus Christ.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

If The Jesus Fits

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                I sat in church on Palm Sunday and I imagined the scene of Jesus on a colt, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. I imagine the people yelling “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” I imagine seeing all of the people praising the Savior and also remembered that there were many plotting to arrest Him. There were many who did not believe He was the foretold Messiah. I couldn’t imagine how people who knew about His miracles, about all of the prophecies He fulfilled, and still could not accept Him. I see things have not changed even today.

                I wonder why people don’t believe in God. I can’t understand how they can think all of the things of this world are here by luck and chance. Then there are people that do believe in God, but look for any way to get to Him other than Jesus. I see all of these world religions that seek to please and earn their god(s) through deeds. They follow gods who show human emotions and react in accordance with those emotions. They cannot comprehend a god that is beyond their comprehension. They cannot worship a god that they cannot fit into a box they understand and can then manipulate.

                Christians follow a God who is too large to understand with a human mind, too almighty to react emotionally toward His people, too great to change with the times, and loving enough to seek His children through the sacrifice of His only son. These concepts are difficult to a heart that isn’t enlightened with the Holy Spirit. Just like the people who denied Christ as He entered into Jerusalem to give His life so that we might be reunited with the Father, people still deny Him for similar reasons.

                The people that rejected Jesus during His life expected a warrior king who would defeat their enemies through battle. They could not comprehend a king that would defeat human depravity and sinfulness through the ways of God in Heaven. They wanted a king that fit into their human minded box, that did exactly what they expected, and matched their brokenness. People expected a strong king and rejected a powerful king. No person who isn’t full of the Holy Spirit can understand overcoming strength with weakness, pride with humility, anger with kindness, heartlessness with compassion and hatred with love. In the same way, people today reject Jesus because it requires selflessness, faith, humility, and other ideas that don’t allow them to serve their own purposes. They want to have a manipulatable God that allows them to do what they want with Him in their personal box. They settle for what’s good and miss what is best. This concept falls in line with entitled and easily offended culture we live in.

                Live a life that reaches out to the lost as an example of the God we follow. Let your life reflect the light of Christ and show the power that our King has over this dark world. Show them the power of a God that cannot be put into a box, the love of a God that is unconditional, and the heart of a God that would come to earth and die to pay for our salvation. Imitate our King as the world around is rejects the one that thankfully is beyond comprehension of this world’s darkness.