Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Living with an End in Mind

As a young boy I recall numerous messages preached on the coming of Christ and end times.  In fact, over the years many have prophesied when that day would come.  Some have sold everything on occasion waiting for that very moment to arrive, all to find out that God's timing was different.  As I continue to pray, long for, and anticipate the return of Christ I believe that the church (or at least some in the church) have fallen asleep while waiting.  I truly long for God's justice and rule to take place on this earth.  I long for the ultimate defeat of Satan and his powers.  I'm convinced in my heart and mind, and according to Scripture, that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for God's glory (Phil. 2:9-11).

However, has the church fallen asleep spiritually while maintaining the thought that they will still be granted into God's kingdom based upon their salvation in Christ?  Although I believe our salvation is secure in Christ (by faith alone) I also believe that authentic Christians should be pursuing Jesus Christ during the time that they await His return!  As I was reading 1 Peter 4:7-12 today I really took the time to pray, contemplate, and challenge myself with a few thoughts.  Let me share the passage:

(7) "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (8) Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (9) Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (10) As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (11) whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

I believe that the following is Peter's intended encouragement to believers: 
  • We must live in view of an end and that God will judge all things.
  • Be faithfully praying and live in such a way that our prayers are heard!
  • Be abundant in love and walking in a spirit of love--forgiving others freely!
  • Seek to help others and minister to them because of our deep love for them.
  • Use how you were equipped and your gifts from God to build others in their faith.
  • Because God is ultimately in control we must ALL glorify Him!

Love is the driving force of all the gifts that God has given us.  As believers, we can choose to forgive others without forcing someone to crawl to us on their knees; after all, Christ has modeled this forgiveness for us.  As I experience friends going home to be with the Lord and as difficulties enter my life, I am reminded that I must live with an end in mind.  It brings me comfort to know that the pain in this life will not last forever and that God will have the final word.  However unfairly life may seem at times may we keep His perspective about how we live our days out for His glory.

Prayer:  Father, I pray that in all of my simpleness that I would never place my will or desires over yours.  If difficult times are what is necessary for your work to prosper in my life then grant me those days with Your strength that I may move forward with humility and courage.  I pray that I may walk pure before you and please teach me to number my days so that I may know how frail I really am.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Choose to be a Life-Giver

Early on in my life I learned the power of a positive attitude, affirming words, and an optimistic outlook.  By nature, many people tend to be negative and expect the worst of almost everybody and every situation.  It would seem that circumstances and odds are always stacked against them and they allow their misery to be made known to everyone around them.  As a Christian, our responsibility ought to be that of a life-giver to other people.  Our goal should be to help draw others into a deeper relationship with God and encourage them to use their lives to advance His kingdom work.
 As a young person attending school I learned that kids could be very cruel.  I found myself at the end of mean spirited jokes and comments.  The pains of having the wind emotionally sucked out of me was exhausting and defeating.  I suppose in some ways we learn to compensate and deny that it really even affected us.  I praise God that He placed some caring Christian friends around me who were filled with praise, kindness, and encouragement.  This came at a time when I was feeling very devalued and worthless as an individual.  I experienced just the opposite feeling; the feeling of being refreshed and replenished.  I loved how the drink of encouragement tasted and wanted others to know that they could be refreshed as well.  I find that most people live very depleted lives due to choices they make, those they live with, or choose to be with.  So, it was at that time I committed myself to being a life-giver to others for a life-time.

If you look in your dictionary, you’ll see that the archaic meaning of inspire is “to breathe into.” Inspiration is about receiving life-giving breath into our bodies and souls. It is what God gave to Adam when He brought him to life in the Garden of Eden: "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being".   —Gen. 2:7

As “living beings” who have received the breath of God in our lives, we can breathe inspiration into one another. At every point of my Christian journey, God has given me companions who not only walk with me, but who also inspire me to keep taking the next step down the road. As I think about those relationships, certain characteristics stand out as key elements of inspiration.  Those I value are Kingdom minded, they stand on His promises, they rest in His sufficiency, and they inspire me to godly action (1 Th. 5:11).

Most people are not live-givers but life-takers and it is hard to be around them for long.  We need more life givers and we need to work at converting the life-takers to a Biblical mindset that focuses on the character of God.  Would you commit yourself today to BE DIFFERENT, go against the flow, and be a life-giver by His power?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Are Our Lives a Portrayal of Love?

Most Christians, if asked, would say that they love everyone.  After all, God is love and He has commanded us to love one another. God's love (agape love) is revealed in acts of goodness and self-sacrifice.  These are acts of ongoing love towards others, without restrictions.  To our shame, it seems easier to love those who do not know Christ than to love those who are of the "household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).  Christ commands us to love Him with, "all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves" (Mt. 22:37-39). God goes so far as to challenge us as believers not to just tolerate our enemies, but to love our enemies. 
Just this past week, I was rebuked and challenged by the apostle Paul about the priority of demonstrating Christ-like love towards others (1 Corinthians 13).  Paul was addressing believers and their relationship towards other believers.  Much emphasis is typically given towards the spiritual gifts in the church in this passage of Scripture.  However, there is a higher priority that drives everything we do in life, especially as it relates to the church.  This priority is that in everything we say and do that the love of Christ pours from our lives.  I recall a quote I wrote down in my Bible over 25 years ago:  "You love Jesus Christ only as much as you love the one that you love the least."  You may need to read that again in order to process it.  I can't even imagine how much God's heart must ache by the lack of love that we give towards others.  We often feel justified;  however, Scripture tells us that "God gave His love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  There were no restrictions set by Christ!  Praise God!!!
Consider with me these truths about Biblical Love found in 1 Corintians 13:4-6. Unquestionably, the concept of love can more easily be explained in terms of what it is not, than what it is.  Paul describes the concept of love in a poetically arranged paragraph (vv. 4–6).
Love is patient and is kind.
Love is not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant.
Love does not behave indecently,
does not seek its own things,
does not become irritated,
does not keep a record of evil,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices in the truth
covers all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Would you prayerfully pray through these verses with me and consider how we could be a portrayal of love that reflects Christ-likeness.  This is indeed a life-long journey!  Be prepared as God stretches you to be a better lover of all men!  Love is so powerful in carrying the work of God forward.  I personally pray that when others think of me that they would think of me as a "loving" person.
Personal Prayer:  "Father, forgive me for my lack of love as I fail to share, and express love towards others (especially my brothers and sisters in Christ) due to a lack of concern, pride, and being self-absorbed with my own life."


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Beauty of God's Forgiveness

My family and I are enjoying some beautiful scenery in Vail, Colorado.  As Adina enjoys the warmth of the fireplace and a good book, Ethan, Ross, and I tackle the the slopes for a day of excitement.  We love visiting the mountains and sitting in the hot tub as the snow falls.  We not only love the family time but we love to absorb God's goodness in all of His creation.

The mountains have received over nine feet of snow so far this season.  This morning I sit, staring at the beauty of the slopes, and marvel at how much like the pureness of the snow is the beauty of God's forgiveness.  I was compelled to look up Isaiah 1:18 where Isaiah challenges Judah to embrace God's forgiveness that he wants to bless them with.  He says, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool".  I wonder at times if I truly understand the beauty of God's forgiveness or if I really understand what God has made possible.  I've heard it said that many times we cannot forgive ourselves yet I believe the bigger challenge is accepting the forgiveness that God has given us.

Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is found guilty with bloodstained hands and God's invitation is literally to come and let's seek out what is right.  Twice in this verse, their sin is identified as anything but acceptable (scarlet/crimson) , and twice God tells of how pure He can make them (snow/wool). Some translators suggest that God will give their sinful condition the appearance of cleanliness.  However, I believe that Scripture is clear that God removes our sin "as far as the East is from the West" (Psalm 103:12). Micah tells us that, "You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19b).

Please know that God's forgiveness is offered to you and that it is real.  The beauty of God's forgiveness is that He totally removes our filthy sin and blankets us with His holiness.  Delight in Him today with me!