Partnership

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The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

God is living among us, with us, and in us. Because of this we have a genuine partnership. God created us for His purposes, for His kingdom, for His will. As Christ said, we must deny ourselves and follow after Him. As tough as that sounds we have been dropped into this story that God is writing and we all have a role to play in it. No one else can fill it for us so we must rise to the occasion or others will pay the price. We must speak into the lives of those around us, live by faith, lead by example, help those in need, bind up the broken, encourage the weary, and cherish those that God has entrusted to us (Isaiah 61:1-3). Through all of this we have an unending source of strength from a God who takes delight in those who serve Him. He also calms our fears with reminders of His love. He is, at this moment, singing a joyful song over us. Ushering us into a life that has power and impact for His glory and a hope and encouragement to those in our lives. God is glad that you are His child and the people around us should know it. We are partners in the greatest story of all time, where He is the main character, love is the story line, and the best happily-ever-after awaits. God doesn’t invite us into this relationship because He has to, but because He wants to. And that is an encouraging thought.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters.

United in Purpose

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On Apostle Paul’s final missionary journey he had been all over the Mediterranean. Towards the end of that journey Paul had been touring Macedonia and Greece for months. Then he spent a week at a place called Troas. Here a man named Eutychus was raised from the dead after falling from a third floor balcony (you know, you’re average trip to Troas). He continued his tour to Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. There he calls the elders from Ephesus to address them one more time before his departure to Jerusalem. He didn’t want to go to Ephesus because he didn’t want to be delayed on his mission to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. Here he makes a few final statements to the leaders of the church because he feels his time is coming to a close. Included in those closing remarks is the following statements.

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Acts 20:17-24

What kind of message is Paul trying to give? He starts by focusing on the consistency of his manor of living since day one of meeting them. He also emphasizes his boldness in sharing his faith. All along the way he was opposed constantly. But that never caused him to waiver. Paul was also undeterred by the uncertainty that lay before him in Jerusalem and beyond. He concludes his statements by making sure the leaders knew that the mission is more important than even his life, and the life of every believer. Verse 24 is the life statement for what it means to follow Jesus. This is what we are all about.

We label ourselves by a lot of titles, husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, our career titles, or even by the things we enjoy doing. But there is only one label that matters the most: follower of Jesus. All the other labels are good and fine. But only when they don’t derail us from the most important one. We have to stay focused on what matters most. Paul’s statement is exactly that. Your life, and mine, has been redeemed in order to testify to the world of His redemption. We’ve received grace to show grace. We’ve experienced His love in order to pass it on. We need to be true to who we are in the sense that we belong to Jesus. We need to have consistent living, not altering who we are based on who we are around. We can’t waiver or shrink back based on the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Truth is, we have far more differences than we do things in common. We have physical, emotional, political, and even theological differences. We all have different backgrounds and upbringings. We are ethnically and culturally different. And if we allow those things to dominate our view of others then we will never be as strong as we’re meant to be. Now more than ever, we need to be committed to fighting the spiritual war with a common purpose, in a unified effort. Because that which unites us is far greater than all the differences we may have. In the midst of all the divisiveness we have to stay on target. Reaching the world with the gospel. Our lives only matter to the extent we bear the image of God and show His love to the world. Everything else pales in comparison. Let’s spend our time giving it away. To encourage. To bring healing. To bring truth and love.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Free Indeed

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Freedom is defined in several ways…First, it is the exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. In a spiritual sense, that would be the pressures of the world. It is also the power to determine action without restraint. Beyond the physical, that which restrains us is known as the opposer or the satan. Lastly, it is defined as personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery. The Bible would identify that as being free from sin.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (ESV)

I think at times we forget exactly what it means to be free in Christ. We are free to serve Him without fear of condemnation. We are free from our sins that once held us in bondage. We are free from the judgment of this world. We are free to be filled with love in our hearts rather than anger, malice, discontent, or bitterness. We are free from worry and anxiety because we know we have a God who cares deeply for us, in Whom we may trust with our whole hearts (Phil 4:6). We are free from any of our inabilities because we can do all things for Him and through Him (Phil 4:13). We are free from weariness because we have a God who is an endless source of strength (Isaiah 40:31). We are free from discouragement because we have a God who grants an eternal hope that does not fade (1 Pet 1:4).

Are you walking in that kind of freedom? Anything less is a cheap exchange for what is promised. That kind of freedom requires a choice on our part. A choice to receive it. A choice to let all of the baggage of life go. A choice to belong to Him. A choice to allow Someone greater to be the master of our destinies. Let’s stop settling for the counterfeit and actually walk in this freedom. Then, and only then, will we experience the peace and joy that comes with being a follower of Christ.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters!

Conqueror

*Jesus Christ addressing the churches in Revelation (and us). To the one who conquers…

I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7 (ESV)

…will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:11 (ESV)

I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev 2:17 (ESV)

and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26 (ESV)

will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Rev 3:5 (ESV)

I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:12 (ESV)

I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21 (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of conquering some evil enemy inspires great emotion. But what exactly are we conquering? This is not a call to be an oppressive subjugator of peoples. No, this is a call to conquer the the things that bring death and destruction to our lives. We are waging war on depression, anxiety, lies, persecution, trials, and sin.

Man, this sounds like a heavy load to bear. But along with that comes an incredible series of promises to all those who give their lives over to Christ and live a life of obedient faith in Him.

Last year was rough for so many people around the globe. For many, we’re still in the same boat entering 2021. But the struggles and hurts never have to be the end of the story. The great news is, we’re not alone in this endeavor. We cannot conquer this world and the battles of life alone. And we don’t have to. As Paul tells us in Romans, our life circumstances cannot separate us from the Love of Christ. When we live for Him, we are His. We can rejoice in that security and the strength that Christ gives us to be conquerors in His name.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)

Wherever you’re at entering the new year, know that you have the love and power of Jesus to overcome. I pray for you to feel His goodness. I pray for you to experience His healing. I pray for you to have the weight of life lifted from your shoulders. From the depth of my heart, I hope your year is full of His peace.

Do you know Him?

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:2-8 (NKJV)

Christ wants our hearts. He wants us to grow in our knowledge of Him. That knowledge produces the qualities of a follower of Christ. Those qualities show others that our love and faith is real, and in turn, that Jesus is real. It is so critical for us to relfect on our relationship with Him consistantly so that we can know in our hearts that we know Him who has called us out of the darkness into the light (John 8:12). The rewards for knowing Him are so great that we can only begin to scratch the surface. Those who have experienced Him and spend time in His presence can testify of the fullness of life through knowing Him. We have so much to gain. Such as grace, peace, godliness, abundant life (John 10:10), and eternal life (John 3:16) through this endevour of getting to know our Lord and Savior. I pray that nothing holds us back. I pray that we can take hold of the precious promises and the divine nature (spirit nature) that God has called us to. I pray that we will always put forth effort to add to our faith the characteristics listed by Peter. I pray that we will all experience His divine power so that we may not go through this life barren (useless) and unfruitful (unproductive) in our walk with Christ. I hope you are all encouraged by the fact that the One True Almighty God has called you into a relationship with Him and wants you to get to know Him.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Fearless

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

Fear is a painful emotion or passion excited by the expectation of evil, anxiety, or dread. To be hopeless or doubt. That, my friends, should not define a Christian.

As a follower of Christ, and children of God, we are to be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6), understanding that hardships will come but that we will overcome because Christ has overcome (John 16:33). In the midst of these trials of life we are to rejoice because we are in a living hope (1 Peter 1:3-7) knowing that our faith is being perfected.

Christ did not intent for us to live in doubt or dread, but instead, He’s calling us to something greater. He’s calling us to live out a life of faith and trust in Him. A life that lifts up those around us and speaks to Who our God is. Be encouraged brothers and sisters, because God is upholding you with His righteous right hand. Lets go out and live in that hope and the strength that comes from this knowledge.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I pray that your day is empowered. I pray that your day is full of love. God is in your present and God is in your future. Fear can’t cripple the one whom God empowers.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Live like we have life

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John‬ ‭5:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The gospel message is pretty clear: Jesus equals life. An eternal life and the life blood of God’s Spirit here and now. But how many of us are actually living like we believe that? How many of us are filled with unmovable hope? Does joy mark our existence or are we weighed down by the worries of this life? More than all of this, what are we doing to get the message out? If we believe Jesus is life, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to let others know that? But many of us keep to our own Christian circles and rarely look for chances to share the gospel with those outside. I guess until we fully realize the magnitude of the offer Jesus has given to us, we can’t fully understand what we are meant to share with the world. Lord please renew in us a full appreciation for your loving grace. Awaken our hearts again to the joy of your salvation.

Pray for me to be bold and I too will pray for you all. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Allusive Peace

When Jesus said we can have peace through Him, I believe Him. But I will be the first to admit that it’s allusive at times. At least that’s how it seems. The problem is my innate ability for distraction and misplaced priorities make it difficult to maintain a state of peace. I work a lot. I mean a lot. I have a family with three little ones, Bible Study, a business, and a teaching career. I find myself constantly battling the concerns of being a husband, father, teacher, business owner, etc,,,that I don’t often stop to smell the roses. I’m living month to month, instead of minute by minute most of the time. It’s a cycle that deepens as life progresses. But it’s also a cycle that can be broken at any time.

This is my manifesto. I will choose the moment rather than planning all the upcoming moments. I will soak in Jesus presence as often as I can possibly make time. I will choose to look at the silver lining in all circumstances. I will be the rock my family needs. I will stop allowing the stresses of life to have any hold on my heart. My life is good because I have Jesus. And because I have Jesus, I have salvation, rest for my soul, and peace with God. And it just so happens that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and three awesome kids.

Money will come, because God will not abandon His own. Life will go on and we will all be under His loving watch. His peace will no longer be allusive in my life. How about yours?

Maybe today is the day for you to write your manifesto. Wherever you’re at, today is a gift. Let’s receive it with joy.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Age old lessons

There are many things that our parents and grandparents taught us that have never ceased to be important. There is a such thing as transcendent truths. What was good for society a hundred years ago still holds strong today.

One of those lessons that seems to be getting shoved to the back is the quality of follow through. In an ever-changing society we see people dabbling and not committing. When relationships get tough more and more people want to bail. When perfection can’t easily be achieved, giving up seems like the best option. Try this for a little bit then when you’re tired of it, move on. But where is the staying power? Where is fortitude? Is perseverance no longer a quality to strive for?

I am not much for ranting. I’d rather spend my time encouraging and empowering. That’s how real change can occur. I implore you, brothers and sisters, set an example of endurance. Let’s be a people that do what we say we will do. As believers in Christ, our commitments can not be empty promises. Just think, if Jesus would have quit when things weren’t easy, the world would have been lost in sin. If God had no follow through, we would be lost in darkness. God’s faithfulness is our example.

In James chapter 5, God tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Failed follow through is the same as a bold faced lie. If our word means nothing, we cannot be trusted in anything. If we make a commitment, we must make a way to see it done. Haven’t we spent enough of our lives with unfinished chapters? Lord help us be people of our word, to the smallest detail.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Love’s Ink

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In your frustrations and disappointments, let Jesus fill your need. He is our hope in the times where hope seems lost. Our problems can be consumed by the eternal fire that God breathes into our souls. Much of life can feel like groaning and yearning for greater things, or even for difficult things to pass. It is both to the future and the past that we must look. Look first at the fact that you are known and cherished and created with a purpose. Look next to the unthwarted pursuit of God in the lives of His creation. Then gaze upon a hill, where a blood-stained cross displays a love far greater than any of us deserves. But that love did not stop there. There is also a tomb…an empty tomb that shows our destinies are not surrendered to death. Our future is written with love’s ink.  Glory awaits. Freedom awaits. There will be a day when the pain ceases and joy will be the only emotion we know. Because of Jesus, our hearts do not need to remain downcast. The victory is won and an even greater victory is coming. Hold strong brothers and sisters. Pray for me as I pray for you also. God is good and He has always been for you.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Peace in Christ loved ones!