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.

God Shows Himself to All People

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          In the following piece of scripture it is revealed that God reveals Himself to all people. He makes His presence and power clear through His creation. Every person in this world has had a moment where they marvel at nature, an indescribable joy, a new born child, the kindness of a stranger or some other moment that caught their attention. They are looking into the face of God and have no idea how to explain the way their spirit seems to illuminate in the presence of the power of their Creator.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man….. (Romans 1:18-23a)

          God makes His presence clear to all and it is the darkened heart that denies the source. The heart is blinded by false wisdom, pride, arrogance, and sometimes shame that covers God’s presence. They idolize the things of this world and are willing accept the happiness of earthly moments as an exchange for the joy found in earth’s Creator and Sustainer.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)

          God puts eternity in all men’s hearts. He has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  He creates a longing that is meant to seek Him but gets soiled in man’s fallenness and then given over to addictions (alcohol, drugs, pornography), sin (greed, lust, envy), and idolatry (money, sex, vanity, attention); all in attempt to fill a void that only the Father can fill. How many people that seem successful by worldly standards later admit that they are truly empty? They sink deeper into despair when they are lost because the world they are meant to shine light into by reflecting their creator blows out the flame they have built for themselves. They seek a powerless source and neglect the only everlasting God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

          God, in His infinite wisdom, even went so far as to come to earth in the flesh and show His love to us through His teachings and eventually the sacrifice of His body as an atonement for our sin. He presented His plan in the Old Testament through prophecy and then fulfilled it in Jesus. He made the Word flesh so that His glory could be visible. God literally loves us so much that He left Heaven and stood among us to fill that void and reconcile us to Him. God has made His presence clear throughout history and the arrogance and blindness of man has seen them explain away God in exchange for something they can control and take credit for discovering. Science does nothing more than give man a false sense of power and control. It doesn’t explain away God, it just proves His methods and shows His glory to a world that must sink deeper into the darkness to avoid the eternal light.

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)

          All history shows people seeking God. The Greeks had gods that lived on Olympus, the Egyptians built statues and monuments, and many other religions have designed gods to suit their desires and fit into a cultural box they have created. The true God placed that longing into all men and then showed Himself through creation for all time. He has no need to change to suit man so they have chosen to change Him into a powerless imaginary god or deny Him all together in their pride and arrogance. Know that all men have felt His calling, they have felt the emptiness only He is meant to dwell in, and they have seen him with their eyes.

          It is up to us as believers, who have allowed His Spirit to dwell within us, to reflect His light and His love so that the lost can find their way home; because we are more proof that God is going to show Himself to every person we will ever meet.  

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)

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.