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.

Our Love is measured by our generosity

If you’ve ever wondered just how loving a person is, you need look no further than how generous they are. The Bible defines love as being others focused. That means sacrificing and serving. It’s giving our time, energy, and resources to the improvement and benefit of others.

Generosity is far more than giving money. Think of the selfless parent who devotes every waking hour for their family. Or the spouse who actually stays by their partner’s side through sickness and health, richer or poorer, rain or shine.

Professions of choice can be a reflection of a generous heart. The soldier or policeman who puts their life on the line for freedom and security and their brothers and sisters in arms. Or the teachers who tirelessly strives for children, who are not even their own, to be able to have an education and a future. The nurses and doctors who work incredibly long hours to provide healthcare to society and save lives.

But we can’t set aside the times people use their financial resources to bless others, or more than that, even save others from ruin. I know more than one person who gave a vehicle away to people in need. They didn’t sell it cheap to them, they gave it to them. And they were good vehicles. Not junkets that they never use. I know people who have given thousands and thousands of dollars. Sure, not all of us have those resources, but we all have something. The problem for some of us isn’t that we don’t have enough, it’s that generosity is too big for us.

True generosity, the kind that honors our God, is the kind the causes us to sacrifice. Donating leftovers is no better than throwing table scraps to our dogs. Love is sacrificial therefore generosity must be as well. To be generous, it must cost us something. And I don’t mean that it costs a couple Starbucks drinks. I mean real cost.

Generosity also doesn’t include loans. In fact, God tells us not to demand repayment or to give to those who can repay us. To give a loan, means you’re getting payment in return. Banks aren’t considered generous, they a business. So is the person who gives expecting repayment. And that goes further than money. Reciprocal giving and serving is not generous. If we expect or demand anything in return, it can’t be labeled as generous.

We have to get in the back seat of our lives. If we are to grow in love, we must grow in generosity. Pray for me and I will pray for you. Peace and Christ brothers and sisters.

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!

God’s love creates loving people

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Perhaps the most well known Bible verse of all time. Athletes proclaim it. Many have it memorized, even if they aren’t sure they believe it or not. It is the quintessential message of God’s pursuit of a fallen humanity. But it doesn’t end with our salvation, it begins a new creation. God’s mission is not to simply save our souls but to remake what mankind has destroyed. Part of that mission is fulfilled through those who put their faith in Him. Later in the Bible there is another book that John wrote. Interestingly, chapter three and verse 16 of that book parallels our opening verse.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s almost like these passages should’ve been right next to each other. God’s great display of love creates a people who live by the same mission and the same standard. Generosity and sacrifice become the banner of a new people who’s hearts have been remade by their creator.

For those of us who proclaim allegiance to Christ, our hands should open to the world around us. Our lives should be spent on a higher calling. God’s love moves us to love. Not because we’re supposed to but because we want to.

Peace and love in Christ brothers and sisters!

The way forward

We can stand against injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters in blue who put their lives on the line every day to do the same. Cops aren’t the enemy, hatred is. Hatred only produces more hatred. Solidarity means moving forward together. Love is the weapon. Jesus is our hope. The way forward is by seeing the intrinsic value of every person who is created in God’s image and loving them as such. That goes for all those wearing a badge and all of us who don’t. The call to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God is the same for every human who has ever walked this earth. Peace in Christ to you all.

Eyes on the Prize

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What matters most in life? Is it our health and wellbeing?  How about our legacy? Maybe it’s the good things we do for others or the longevity of our time here on earth. All of us answer the question solely based on our worldview. Our worldview informs our place in this world and the purpose of our existence. It’ll determine the things we pursue and how we measure success. It’ll either help us through hard times or leave us blowing in the wind. In the challenging times that we live, we need to be able to answer this question.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

For believers in Jesus, our view of the world and our place in it should never change. Viruses, wars, famines, human trafficking, and all other hardships and evils don’t have to alter our perspectives. When God created mankind, he gave them a place in all of creation. That place is to rule alongside Him. Humanity is ingrained with the calling of bringing God’s kingdom to His creation. The above passage in Colossians reminds us to stay focused on that calling…to keep our eyes heavenward. As people all around the world are suffering, the opportunities for the Kingdom of Heaven to be extended on earth are even greater.  As emotions are reeling and anxieties are rampant, Christians need to be that steady voice of hope and victory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

Our command to love has not changed. If anything, people are more desperate than ever for sincere love and generosity. As I see people rush to the stores to hoard supplies out of pure self-preservation, the need for selfless love has rarely been more obvious. People are buying things they don’t need and putting at risk those who actually do need them. In tough times our truest character is revealed. The time is now for Christians to rise up and be a beacon of hope and light during these dark days. As people gather all they can, we need to be giving all we can. As people fear uncertainty, we need to proclaim the certainty of God’s love for them. As the pain of loss ravages families all over the world, we need to be sharing the peace that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the face of economic trials, we need to be reminding the world of how God provides for His children.

If it wasn’t before, it should be obvious by now that our lives are in the hands of another. And that’s actually a good thing. We don’t need vaccines nearly as much as we need repentance. Government bailouts are great but what we really need is more humility before our maker.  God redeems lives. God sustains life. And we need to spend our days participating in His mission of love to a hurting world. Let’s do our part to shine for God’s glory because that is what matters most in life.

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 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

We are but stewards, not lords

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Back when my wife and I hadn’t been together for very long we stopped at a Mcdonald’s to grab a bite to eat. We both got different things as usual. My wife decided she would like a bite of my quarter pounder so she asked politely, which I proceeded to reject her request. She thought I was joking at first until I looked at her with a very serious expression. Well, my wife has never let me live down this humorous, yet good example of selfishness. By the way, I share all of my food with her now when she asks.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  Luke 6:30-31 ESV

One of the character traits my wife and I work on a lot with our children is the desire to share what we have with others. It’s obvious to any parents that we are not engrained with this attribute from birth. Many never learn it in a lifetime. It is one of the most difficult traits to instill in someone because it fights against every bit of our fallen nature. From the moment we’re born until we breathe our last, the struggle is real when it comes to emptying ourselves of selfishness and pride. We walk around with a scarcity mindset like there just isn’t enough in this world to go around I have to get mine or else I’ll be left out. We’ve all been guilty of it. Granted, some are more predisposed than others to generosity but no one is predisposed to selflessness. Even the kindest and most generous people battle with this.

A phrase that I often use with my children, and try to live by myself, is that if we aren’t willing to share something we have then we don’t deserve to have it in the first place. Every time they hold back their toys I gently remind them of this. We are stewards of our possessions, not owners. One of my favorite movie serious is the Lord of the Rings. In the final installment, the wizard Gandalf rides to the great city of Ministereth. This city had been without a king for many years and was controlled by the Steward of Gondor.  Gandalf and the Steward have several choice words because Lord Denethor (the Steward) is a power-hungry snob who has lost sight of his purpose. As the vocal match draws to an end Gandalf looks him straight in the eye and says, “Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the King, Steward!”

Far too often we approach our possession in the same manner as Lord Denethor. God has placed us as stewards over this world and over the people and things in our lives. We don’t own our spouse, or our children, or our things. What we have is meant to be cared for not controlled. We can’t walk through this life with white knuckles, grasping so tightly onto things. In First Corinthians chapter four, Paul reminds us that we have nothing that was not first given to us. That logic can be applied to every single thing we have. Even if we purchased something, it was done with money that was given to us through the job, gift, or inheritance that was given to us. Nothing is ours simply by our own will and effort. There is grace in all we have. And that grace should not be trampled under feet by selfishness.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single thing I own that I would not share with another. Some things would be more difficult to share than others. Also, I am not saying I would share everything with everyone. I obviously wouldn’t let some sketchy dude borrow one of my guns or sleep in my house. We have to use wisdom. However, we are called to share with even the bad people in life.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42 ESV

There is sharing…and then there is sharing. We can let people borrow stuff we aren’t using or give away things that we no longer want. And those things are good. Great even. I think God is pleased with all sharing. But there is a type of sharing that is divine in nature. A type of sharing that costs us something. This is the supreme form of sharing that we should all aspire to. It’s choosing to give others preference. It’s allowing others to use, or even have, things that you still want. It is nothing less than an expression of love. And some take it to the extreme by choosing to lay down their own lives for others. According to God, this is the greatest expression of love. An expression that He Himself showed on the cross of Calvary. As we evaluate our lives from time to time, we need to remember that we are but stewards and not lords.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

Don’t be a rotten fig tree

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark‬ ‭11:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has been one of the oddest stories in the New Testament, for me, for so long. It just seemed out of place. But knowing that God has a unique design for everything that’s in the Bible I still knew that there was a deeper meaning that I was missing. When it finally dawned on me I became extremely convicted. That seems to happen a lot when reading the Bible.

Jesus used the symbolism of the withered fig tree to teach His disciples that the nation of Israel had become as spiritually fruitless as the tree Jesus cursed. The same lesson is important for today’s followers of Jesus to understand as well. A person can look spiritually healthy on the outside just as the fig tree looked good for bearing fruit. But the best indicators of spiritual health are a person’s faith in God and love for others (see vv. 22-25). We can certainly look the part and not be the part. More than anything Jesus renounced and rebuked hypocrisy in people who claimed allegiance to God.

“As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.” Mark‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For all the people walking into churches and going to Bible studies yet aren’t producing faith and love and change in their lives are but a tree withering at the roots. We have to guard against complacency and apathy. We have to let Jesus keep our hearts soft and tender and open to others. We have to continue to grow in love and goodness. Let’s move forward loved ones. Let’s produce the faith and joy and wonder that this world longs to see.

“”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 ‭ESV‬‬

Divine Embrace

Lost in the moment in treasure’s embrace. The concerns that once flooded my mind vanish, without a trace.

My heart is overwhelmed by loves great call. How long has it been? I couldn’t recall.

Since the power of love had carried such force. What I felt was so beautiful, no fear or remorse.

It grasped my attention and broke down my walls. It was as the pure light which illuminates all it befalls.

My heart was so light yet my eyes filled with tears. For a few short moments, I had no problems, no fears.

I couldn’t escape, but why would I want to? I held on a little tighter, what else could I do?

As I stand in worship, life’s memories are before my eyes. Thankfulness in my heart continues to rise.

At times I am silent, I can’t muster my voice. And at times I can’t help but lift praise and rejoice.

The weight of this moment I couldn’t comprehend. But one thing I knew, I didn’t want it to end.

For the love of the Father has set me free. I may be holding my little girl, but God you’re holding me.

*A while back at church my daughter Anna and I were together for worship. She wanted to be held and I had no problem fulfilling that request. In the middle of worship, while I was holding my then five-year-old little girl, I was completely ambushed by God’s love. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it but that’s how I felt. It was out of nowhere. And extreme emotions overtook me. I was captivated all over again. God used my immense love for my daughter to remind me of His even greater love for me. It was a cherished moment that I’ll never forget. The words of this poem cannot fully express how I felt. But it’s at least a small glimpse. I hope you’ve all felt overwhelmed by His love for you. If not, that’s my prayer for you. God bless brothers and sisters.