No Separation Among Believers

Acts 10:27-29, 34, 44-45 – … “And as he (Peter) talked with him (Cornelius), he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean…” So Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is right, is acceptable to Him…” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles…”

Stereotypes and classifications circulate around us in every aspect of life. From the time a child is born they’re required to have regular checkups to see exactly where they are in their development; what percentile do they fall into? They grow up and are watched by teachers and staff to see if they belong to group A (more-advanced learning abilities) or group B (the “average” learner.) As they enter high-school, even their peers are taught to start categorizing each other; who is most likely to succeed? Who’s the class clown? Who’s the best dressed?

As they grow into adulthood, they’re immediately poisoned by the media. Exaggerations and bullying of certain political and/or religious groups are on news channels and talk shows everyday. Are they going to be a democrat or republican? Maybe a libertarian? Do they want to be Pentecostal or Baptist? What occupation best suits them? Where should they choose to live? What type of person should they marry?

Separation all day long… Some of these things truly do help us make better choices, and we do have to try and figure out where in life we’re called to be. However, sometimes it becomes so common to pick out the pros and cons of everything, that we do it even when it’s completely out of line- without even realizing it!

I’ve been “in church” my entire life, and I’ve seen people classify other people as “unspiritual,” “liberal,” and “unqualified for ministry,” etc. The sad thing is, they weren’t even making these judgments based on Biblical principles, but on preferences alone. This caused division in the church, hurt in people’s hearts, and roots of confusion, bitterness, and isolation to spring up in the worst of places.

That’s why I love reading this portion of Scripture. God speaks to Peter and prepares his heart. Peter was open and ready to hear what God had to say, and he learned an important lesson, that served a whole lot of good just days later. God shows no partiality. He loves all of His children with an unconditional love. He instructed Peter to never call any person common or unclean. If they fear (respect) God and do what is right, they are acceptable to Him. We have no business classifying them based on our opinions. Sure, we should use discernment, as anyone can claim to be anything… but, discernment is more than a 3 second opinion based on appearance, so be prayerful, kind, gentle, longsuffering… (basically, put those fruits of the spirit into use! Galatians 5:22-23)

God has such a large kingdom! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all learn to work and serve alongside each other with a Godly love and acceptance? Encouraging and supporting each other in our daily endeavors to do what He’s called us to do? It’s not too late to start!

Find a fellow Christian today that you’ve never really spoken with, or even met, and talk about the goodness of the Lord. Share your callings and desires. Start up a friendship that will accomplish great things for Heaven. We’re family. We’re in this together for one purpose- to cause His family to grow! Let’s spread the hope of the Gospel, the peace it brings, and the blessings that come with it!

Let’s forget about who’s the smartest, most talented, and/or most fun to be around. Let’s not focus on “who’s most likely to succeed” anymore. Instead, let’s remember how we’re going to get the most done for the kingdom of God… TOGETHER!

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your unconditional love for each one of Your children. Help us to bridge the gaps that lie between us. Bring us together so we can accomplish the most for You. In Your precious and mighty name, amen.

Let’s Tell Them What We Have!

Acts 3:1-8- Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

 

As of late, I’ve really been burdened with this thought: “Am I helping the people that are placed in my direct path every day?” So often we want to travel across the globe or change our life entirely to feel as if we’re doing something purposeful. But, I felt God dealing with me about this subject specifically not too long ago. So when I read this Scripture, my heart felt such joy!

See, Peter and John were simply traveling the same road they were used to traveling. They were headed to the temple to pray. While on their set path, they encountered a lame man, longing for help sitting right there… just right there!

How many days have flown past us in which we didn’t “see” hurting, helpless people traveling the road right beside us? Have we been in such a hurry to get to where we’re going, so caught up in our earthly responsibilities, that we honestly just forget to look? And then, if we do remember to glance around, do we just say, “Hey! You should come to church with me?” And by saying that, do we feel that our “job” is done?

One thing I noticed in this portion of Scripture is that Peter and John, although right at the door of the temple, did not use that line. (Peter DIRECTED his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us. I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”)  Peter was ready. He was attentive. He was anointed. He saw an opportunity to bring glory to Jesus Christ, while helping a hurting soul, and he didn’t let it pass him by! And because of the attention, the statement, and the actions they took OUTSIDE of the church house, a miracle was wrought in that lame man’s life that day.

And then- look at what happened next! (And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and ENTERED THE TEMPLE WITH THEM, walking and leaping and praising God.” If we do what we’re supposed to do in our daily lives; if we allow ourselves to be led by Jesus Christ; if our lives are a testimony to the goodness of our God; those around us will want to come to church. We may not even have to ask! We can offer something else… exhibit something else… so powerful and full of hope that they’ll be asking us where to go!

Through that one act of obedience, a domino effect is sure to occur. I remember this saying I heard in Sunday School years ago, “You may win one that wins many…” People notice life changes… Victory stands out… Hope and peace are contagious… Whatever part you play in planting a seed that brings about salvation in someONE’s life, will be used to reach many more, so long as life goes on. (Acts 3:9-10- And  all the people saw him walking and praising God,  and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.)

While getting people to a church service is a fantastic idea, we don’t have to wait for that. God has instilled within us a power and an anointing to draw them to Him in the grocery store, on the side of the road, and/or in McDonald’s parking lot. YOU, ME… all of us were commissioned to GO and tell the world of the Gospel and the hope of Jesus Christ. Let’s follow Peter and John’s example going forward! Let’s stop. Look. Listen. And offer what only Jesus Christ gives!

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for this example and reminder of what kind of power you’ve placed within me. Forgive me for neglecting to use it. Help me to change this beginning today and continuing from here on out. Give me Your eyes, to see those right on my path that need You! I love You, Lord. I’m grateful for Your relentless mercy. In Your name I pray, amen.

I Am Praying for Them

John 17:6-9 – “I (Jesus) have manifested in Your name to the people whom You gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I am praying for them. … … …

How often do you feel alone? Unseen? Misunderstood? Do you ever feel like you’re potentially on the edge of defeat? Has there ever been a time you’ve falsely convinced yourself that you didn’t have what it takes to win a battle you had to fight?

I am praying for them.

I’m sure each and every one of us have dealt with each of the above scenarios more than once in our lives. But, do you think those moments would end much more quickly if we could get ourselves to remember that Jesus Christ is praying for us?

I am praying for them.

He prays for all believers to be unified, in one accord, etc. as He and the Father are. John 17:11- … “I am no longer in the world, but they are… Holy Father, keep them in Your name… that they may be one, even as We are one.”    

I am praying for them.

Too often we Christians allow sorrow and depression to linger too long in our lives. Several scriptures make it clear that Christ longs for us to have joy and peace overshadow us along our journey. But, He prays that for us, too! John 17:13- “… now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” The Creator and Savior of this world prays for us to have His joy satisfied and achieved in our lives! So, when sorrow tries to unpack its bags and depression attempts to pick out its new room, just remind them Who is praying for you to have joy and send them on their way!

I am praying for them.

Maybe you’re feeling weak and unequipped to face temptation everyday. You’re discouraged and maybe even angry at yourself for “failing” at the same things on multiple occasions. You can overcome that! You are more than a conqueror through Him. (Romans 8:37) Why? Because of these words spoken to the Father by the Son, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15  Remind yourself every morning when you wake up that your Redeemer is calling out for you to be protected from the enemy’s tactics… to be kept from his lies… to avoid each thing he attempts to throw at you! With your determination, His strength, your faith, and His prayers… You can and will be victorious in all that you are faced with!

I am praying for them.

Are you struggling with direction? Unanswered questions? Unfamiliar territories? Determining God’s plan for your life? He also prays that you will find yourself consecrated, approved, supported, authorized, and endorsed through the Word of God. John 17:17- Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. When you dedicate yourself to the Word of God; when you read your bible to glean knowledge and instruction; and when you pray that God opens your eyes to an even deeper wisdom so that you can live life to its fullest potential, you will see all those things take place. You will find your way. The majority of your questions will be given answers. Confidence, courage, and contentment will be yours to wear. You just have to commit yourself to the faithful reading of His Word. You can do that…

I am praying for them.

He wants you to dwell in His presence and be filled with a deep, unconditional, gracious, and Godly love, too! John 17:24, 26- “Father, I desire that they also… may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me… I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them…”

What a beautiful and blessed life you’ve been given to live! All these prayers… they’re powerful and they will come to pass! James 5:16- … “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!” He IS righteousness, so His prayers will not go unheard or unanswered… and He prays for you!! Remind yourself of His words today and everyday…

I am praying for them.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for praying for me. Thank You for wanting such great and mighty things for my life. May I never forget Your words nor cease to praise You for Your excellent kindness to me. Thank You for the promise of victory. I love You. In Your name I boldly declare this, amen.

#AbundanceForDays

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

 

When I was just in highschool, I was told by a close friend of mine that I had a tendency to be negative. Oh, when she told me that I felt a loathing I hadn’t felt before. I started thinking of other people I thought that about myself and how they drained the energy from me, and… How could she think that of me? But, I started paying closer attention to my conversation and reactions, etc., and, to my horror, I realized she was right. I cannot tell you how much I hated to admit to that.

At that point, I made it my priority to change that about myself. I didn’t want to be known as the “Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy” among my peers. Months went by, and with much effort I took time to think about the words that would escape my lips. But, the thoughts that entered my mind were another story. Although the negativity I dwelt on didn’t get a voice, it still caused damage to my inner peace.

I got so frustrated with myself. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I fix this? I’m trying so hard!

And then I read this Scripture.

The most important line would be the last- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” When Jesus gave His life for us, it wasn’t just for our salvation. He ever lives to make intercession for us; to take our sorrows, our grief, our fears, our weaknesses, etc. He came that we may have life… abundant life!

Abundant- more than adequate; well-supplied; abounding; richly supplied; lavish.

When I read that, something new registered with me. I claimed to be a follower of Christ, and yet, for some reason, I didn’t feel that my life was “abounding or richly supplied.” Oh, how wrong I was! I realized I needed to work on the relationship I had with Him. Something was off. I should be experiencing unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8), sustainable peace (Colossians 3:15), and overflowing thankfulness (Colossians 2:7). Going forward I determined that my outlook would be clearer and my life would be lived differently.

I can’t say it’s always been easy. There’ve been periods throughout my life that were trying. I battled fear and frustration. Defeat knocked at my door. My words stayed positive, but my mind needed redemption at times. But, that was okay. I knew Who I could lean on and trust to redirect my thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Just today I heard a clip of a sermon that resonated within me. When you ask, “Why does the enemy keep attacking me?” Remember, it’s because you won’t go down! If you have to face sickness, do it while rebuking it in the name of Jesus. When regret and loss bring you to tears, quote verses of hope through your crying. Should fear take a tight grip on your life, plead the blood of The One that can break every chain!

He came so we could live an abundant life! We will not be defeated! We are blessed, protected, cherished, and provided for! We are His.

Let’s take the words of Apostle Paul and pray them over our lives today:

 

Prayer: “But we have this treasure… to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We can live life abundantly because of You, Jesus. We thank You for that today!

 

Search and Rescue

John 3:16-17- For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

 

Aren’t you grateful for God’s goodness and mercy? His forgiving nature? His unconditional love?

I don’t know where I’d be without it! He is gracious to me in the moments I deserve it least of all. When I stumble, He gently picks me up. When I stop moving because I fear the unknown, He takes my hand and walks along beside me. He knows just what I need when I need it, and never does anything to hurt me. Even His rebukes are soft and kind. There’s no better friend, deeper love, or genuine forgiveness in all the world; we need to spread that around!

So many areas in life are readily available to reveal to us our shortcomings and failures.There are plenty of people around that will somehow remind us of how we don’t measure up to their expectations. We’ll discover things about ourselves that we don’t care for on the regular. Am I right?

See… we’re all the same in that aspect.  We need encouragement. Understanding. Patience. Love. Relationship. Kindness. Purpose. As growing Christians, we have to be careful that we don’t focus on the “do’s and don’t’s” when communicating with the world. They need to hear about “Who and what’s.” –  Who loves them immensely, and what He did/does to prove that each day.

I discovered a few years back how quick I was to jump on a bandwagon when it came to “standing for truth.” Now, don’t get me wrong- I still VERY much believe in doing that. However, I remember hearing a pastor say this once, and it struck a chord with me, “When you want to say something, you probably shouldn’t; when you don’t want to, you probably should.”

Our flesh likes to jump on in there and put someone in their place when they’re doing something we have no problem with. There’s a sense of self-righteousness that kicks in and we can wrongfully justify that by telling ourselves we’re “witnessing.” But, go back and read the two verses at the top of this page… God so loved the world that He gave what was most precious and perfect to Him. And He did that, NOT to condemn the world… (Condemn- express complete disapproval, typically in public; censure; sentence to a particular punishment, etc.) but that the world might be saved through Him.

We all know there are consequences to sin. There is punishment. But, there is hope! There is salvation! That should be our focus, shouldn’t it? Of course! That’s the focus of the very One Who came with the power to accomplish such redemption! (Matthew 18:12- For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.)

If we could imagine but for a moment, a traveler lost in the wilderness- He took a wrong turn, made a couple careless decisions, ended up on a trail never intended to be walked. He’s scared. He’s cold. He’s hungry. He’s alone. He’s angry with himself. “What if’s,” “how come’s,” and “if only’s” torment his mind. For days he battles harsh temperatures and uncomfortable scenarios. He cries out for help. Screams in agony at the thought of never finding his way to safety and comfort.

Then, all of a sudden, out in the distance he hears a faint sound. He stands motionless and strains to listen again. There it is, a little closer. He realizes it’s a group of voices calling out to him. Someone has come to lead him out of this mess! He yells, “Here I am! Over here!” and within minutes he is surrounded by those sent to find him.

What do you think he’s needing right now? Does he need to be reminded of how foolish it was to wander off on his own? Should he be scolded? Belittled? Left alone? Absolutely not. He should be welcomed. Hugged. Provided warmth, consideration, empathy, and assistance. Most likely, he’s learned his lesson and is just grateful someone was sent at the right time to lead him out of the mess he got himself into.

The “world” is the same. They’re lost. Whether they fully know that yet or not, they know something is off. When we, “the search and rescue team,” if you will is sent to them, we need to offer them the resources that will help them and heal them. God loves them. He doesn’t want to condemn them. He wants to save them.

We’re here to tell them that.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for saving me! Thank You for loving me! Give me patience and compassion for all those surrounding me. Help me shine the light of Your love and salvation each day that I live. May everyone I encounter sense Your presence in my life and come to know You. Give me boldness, courage, and reminders to speak of the hope only You can give. In Your name, amen.

 

He Did It On Purpose?

Jeremiah 1:5- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

God makes no accidents. No mistakes. No mess-ups. No oopsy-daisies.

So, that means… God made you… and me… on purpose???

That’s exactly right.

Not too long ago I decided to venture into the painting realm. I had never done it in my life, and in every other artistic avenue I had zero skill, but still… I wanted to paint, by golly! So I did. After a few endeavors I actually began creating things people wanted to hang on their walls! But, they didn’t start that way. I made several errors several times, but take some more paint, and voila! Those flaws can be covered up, and there set before you, is a “blank” canvas yet again.

See, when the painting didn’t go quite like I had envisioned, I racked my brain for a new idea. After wrestling around with different images and brushes and colors, most times I was able to salvage the canvas by creating something I liked enough to keep. But, there were times it didn’t quite work that way.

Thankfully, God doesn’t wait until after we are born to decide whether or not we are worth keeping. He doesn’t wait for us to make it through our childhood and teen years to see if we have qualities that could potentially be useful. No! He had a vision for us which is WHY He formed us.

Our value doesn’t decrease in His eyes. If we make bad decisions, He can indeed take another “splash of color” and cover up that flaw, but He never throws us away. He doesn’t have to toss around different plans and ideas to try and find a way to make us “pretty enough” to keep. He determined how priceless we were from the beginning. That, like our purpose for existence, will never change.

Isn’t that wonderful???

That makes me so happy! When I feel like I just don’t have what it takes to accomplish what’s in my heart, or if I try something that doesn’t quite end up the way I originally planned, I can still rest assured that He loves me! He values me. He cherishes me. He likes me enough to keep me!

That’s true of you, too. You were designed for a specific purpose. Your qualities, your abilities, and your personality were tethered together specifically for a task God Himself thought you were perfect for! You weren’t given a purpose… You were created for one!

The thing about purpose is, it’s not just limited to one thing. There may be one area where He plans to use you most, but your very existence serves several purposes in itself. Don’t get discouraged with the everyday routine of life, or the simple things we tend to take for granted. Every single day of your life is filled with God-given opportunities to make this world a better place in some way. Make someone smile, give someone hope, meet someone’s need. The ways are endless. How will you fulfil your purpose today?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for creating me! When I don’t see my value, You remind me in Your Word how important and precious I am to You. Help me follow Your voice each day, fulfilling the purposes You created me for. I love You, Lord. In Your name, amen.

It’s Cold… So Plant!

Luke 13:18- He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

A mustard seed.

It’s the smallest of all seeds, yet grows to be the largest of all garden plants. It has several uses across the planet that stretch from spices used in cooking to oils used in body massages. And, the fact that fascinates me most is that it germinates best when placed in a cold atmosphere and relatively moist soil.

I love that because the mustard seed is referenced to on multiple occasions throughout Scripture, and therefore I look at everything about the little guys through a different viewpoint. So, when I read that mustard seeds grow best in colder temperatures, my heart felt a quiver of hope. Why?

Because the world in which we live is a cold one. People are cruel. Times are hard. Money is short. Bills are unending. Fear is celebrated. Christianity is mocked. It’s not uncommon for us to feel defeated, hindered, and/or ineffective. When your desire is to see peace and joy in the eyes of those around you, and your heart longs for hurting souls to find rest and solace in Jesus Christ, when we focus on the coldness that surrounds, we’ll forever feel like it’s impossible. (Matthew 19:26- But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”)

We just need mustard-seed-size faith! Just a tiny little fragment that we can plant somewhere in this bitter world. That’s all it takes. (Matthew 17:20- “…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”) It will take a little time to germinate underneath the soil that will remain unseen by us. But, one day soon after we’ll see a little sprout coming up from the surface, which will continue to grow into something vast; Proof that even in the coldest of atmospheres, fresh beginnings can indeed come to life.

The Kingdom of God cannot be defeated or stumped. God can take the tiniest amount of faith, the smallest act of obedience, and the most miniscule effort and form it into something vastly beautiful. It reminds me of a song I learned in Sunday School years ago,

“In the harvest field now ripened, there’s a work for all to do; Hark the voice of God is calling, to the harvest calling you. Little is much when God’s in it. Labor not for wealth or fame; There’s a crown, and you can win it! If you go in Jesus’ name.”

With all the pressures of life, we sometimes deceive ourselves into believing that there is just as much stress to be felt when living for and serving God. We have to let it sink in real deep that He is the one that does all the work. We just have to be obedient, do our small task, (plant the seed), and watch Him bring it to fruition.

So, don’t be discouraged when you look around and see the condition of the world we’re living in. Instead, thank God that He can make our little mustard seeds grow right in the midst of it. Check your faith today. Surely you have a tiny bit, right? Well, that’s all it takes! God can and will use that!

Prayer: Lord, I love You and thank You today for taking my smallest efforts and making something big and beautiful with them. I pray that You continue to grow the seeds I plant, and the faith with which I plant them. Thank You for Your faithfulness! In Your name, amen.

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Luke 6:27-36- “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

 

If you’ve been keeping up with the news in any form: television, radio, newspaper, social media, etc., you’ve no doubt seen hatred and animosity at every turn. Riots, protests, violence and hate speech seem to be the norm for some people. It’s heartbreaking when the reality of how shallow some people are in their opinions of others sets in.

As Christians, we should know this kind of behavior and rhetoric is entirely unacceptable in the eyes of our Savior. We are commanded to love everyone on this earth, as they are His children- precious in His sight. We talk as if this is very easy, and for the most part it probably is- but- seeing that we are human, there are times we have to make a conscious effort to keep our actions, words, and hearts in check.

When someone wrongs us, or wrongs someone we care about, it’s easy to “justify” our attitude towards said person. We feel we’ve been given the right to “write them off,” “put them in their place,” or “teach them a thing or two.” If our Example is to be Jesus Christ, (which it is), this ought not be how we handle situations. Our thoughts, comments, (or lack thereof) when driven by spite, are not Christ-like in the slightest. He tells us to love our enemies… do good to those who hate us… bless those that curse us… and pray for those that abuse us. THAT is the true spirit of Christ. Can you fathom such love? Such humility? It takes practice, if you will, for us to get our hearts right. We know we are to use wisdom, be selective in whom we place confidence and choose to spend a lot of time with for our own protection; still, we must be ever so careful to not use that knowledge to make excuses for our selfishness, greed, or frustrations. After all, how often do we need someone to overlook our shortcomings? How often does Christ do that for us?

My pastor’s wife shared something on this topic today on Facebook, and it was so beautifully spoken, I had to copy it here:

 

“There are people that we like better than others…there are people that are easy to forgive…others, not so much. But, the Word that I read and profess to believe doesn’t make allowances in terms of my obedience to love as He first loved me. He loved me when I was not easy to love, when I was inconvenient to love, when I didn’t deserve it, not waiting until He felt like it…He just loved me. When I am frustrating…when I am immature…when I am stubborn…He welcomes and embraces my sad, sorry self. He forgives me. He crowns my life with goodness. He removes my guilt. He removes the stain of my sin and washes me in His blood, makes me whiter than snow. He covers me. He forgets forever, my failings. He calls me daughter. He lavishes me. He takes care of me. He provides for me. I have been and am loved. I WILL love whoever He places in my pathway along my journey home. Heaven. That’s where I’m going. It’s a place too big for small thinking and behavior. By His grace…”

 

I appreciate so much the truth and transparency exhibited in this post. Christ didn’t make me earn His love. He didn’t wait until I had everything together. When I failed at the same thing for the 10th time, He didn’t write me off and tell me He was done. He loves me unconditionally, and oh so deeply! He loves us all that way! And this is why He expects us to do the same for each other. We don’t know what others are facing, or what they’ve been through… what makes them hard or cruel. While rudeness and targeted hurt is never something that is expected to be excused, two wrongs don’t make a right. We are still to love! This world is in desperate need of His kind today… Find someone to show that to today and everyday. 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for loving me unconditionally, for blessing me when I do not deserve it, and for gently correcting me even when it takes me forever to listen. You are so patient with me, and I pray that You help me show that same love and patience with all those I encounter. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Access Granted!

Mark 15 (vs.37-38)- And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last breath. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…

This year I was able to spend a little time in the amazing New York City. While we were there, we determined to make time to view Trump Tower. The building was absolutely incredible; and very true to its name. It seemed to go on and on vertically for miles. We went up to every floor we could, but after about a quarter of the way up, there were no more visible escalators, other than the one that would begin our journey back down to the lobby. There were no points of visibility to see anything that reached further than the level we were standing and below. There were secured doors at every corner, but only those with special access codes were allowed to go beyond that point.

This is, of course, to be expected and the reasons behind such security are entirely understandable. Still, there was a daunting curiosity that was hard to ignore. I wonder what’s up there? Is President Elect Donald Trump here for the holidays? Is the rest of the building as breathtaking as this small portion we’ve already seen? So many questions floating around the brain that will (more than likely) never be answered. Only a select few are permitted to enter those doors… and I’m not one of them.

Back before Jesus was crucified, (paying the ultimate price for our sins), getting to God was pretty much the same way. Only priests were allowed to go behind the “curtain of the temple,” aka: the veil. No one else was able to come directly to Him and experience His presence. There were none worthy. Sacrifices could be made; commandments followed. However, feeling Him and coming into contact with Him was saved for those anointed as priests and prophets.

Jesus broke that barrier for us. The very fact that the veil was ripped from the top to the bottom is evidence enough that a strong, supernatural “Force” destroyed that separation between God and man. Now, any of us can approach the Father, by going through Jesus Christ, His Son. (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5) His sacrifice- His gift- when accepted, makes us worthy… because He stands in the gap for us, makes us clean, and intercedes for us. This allows God the Father to look at us and see spotless, perfect souls because of His Son.

How special does that make us to Him; that He would give us access to everything He possesses and all that He is. We don’t have to bare all of our soul before another individual in order to receive God’s acceptance. Kneeling humbly at His feet is all that is required. He will meet you where you are!

If you don’t know just how important you are to the Creator of this world, remember this occurrence. All those metaphorical doors needing special badges or access codes to reach your Savior- no longer stand in your way. YOU, I, WE have been given access to enter the door to reach our God. (John 10:9) There’s nothing standing in your way…

Prayer: God, I thank You for making a way for me to get to You. Thank You for taking my place and making me worthy enough to feel Your presence, Jesus. May I experience You near me each day. In Your name I pray, amen.

Where Are You Taking Me?

Mark 8:22-25-  And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to Him a blind man and begged Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

 
When I was a child, one of my favorite places to play was our attic. It was fairly large, very well-organized, and the perfect little hideaway for a gal that liked to dream and imagine. I had a few lamps plugged in up there, a recliner we no longer used, and all my favorite books and journals. It was my favorite place…

Until that night.

I was making my way to the back of the attic… during a storm. I wanted to get all cozy up there and read a little while listening to the rain hit our roof. I was even allowing my little brother and sister to join me. Just as I reached the back, BANG! Lightning hit somewhere not too far away and all the power went off in the house… including my little plugged-in lamps. With no windows and the darkness that loomed about outside, everything went black. I blindly reached for my siblings and led them as best I could out of the attic. We made it out after what seemed like forever, and the fear that had been hot on my trail finally grabbed me. The thought of being alone in that attic in the pitch black sent shivers down my spine. Never again. I decided to try out the front porch from that day forward…

I’m now 28 years old… but I’m not afraid to say that I still don’t like walking around in the dark. I’m still frightened at the possibility of someone… something lurking around a corner that I can’t see. (Talk about a legit case of the heebee-jeebees.) Unless something extremely important demands I do it, I just don’t. Simple. There’s not an overabundance of scenarios that are more unsettling to me.

I can only begin to imagine how this blind man felt in Mark 8. Scripture says some people brought him to Jesus, but I’m sure it was people he knew; people he was comfortable with. How was he feeling, though, when this Man he’d never met takes him by the hand and leads him away from the people, sounds, and streets that were familiar? Living with no vision offered little sense of security, and that all lied within the walls he had always known. Where was he headed now?

Do you ever feel like that blind man? You know Jesus; Who He is and what He’s capable of… but does He ever lead you on these journeys that take you far away from your comfort zone? Of course He does! While I can guarantee that it is never His intention to scare us, I can just as accurately promise that He doesn’t want us to stay in the same place for the rest of our lives. He longs to take us by the hand and lead us out away from the voices that echo all around us; from the walls that have long surrounded and held us captive; from the place that over time convinced us it was okay to live with whatever ailed us.

Jesus, however, knows much better! He longs to give us our vision back completely! That blind man was used to seeing nothing but utter darkness. The first time Jesus touched him provided a better way of living, no doubt. He could make out shapes and sizes and movement. (“I see people, but they look like trees walking.”)  But that wasn’t enough. He spent just a little more time with Jesus and his sight was fully restored! (Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.)

The more time we spend with Jesus the more we’ll learn to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the clearer our “vision” will become. When He grabs our hand and starts directing us down some unknown path, we won’t hesitate to move our feet. We’ll see over and over again how He can offer us restoration like nothing else ever could.

Don’t live with your “blindness.” Don’t settle for groping around in the darkness, relying on the walls you’ve gotten used to. Make your way to the Savior and follow Him wherever He leads you. There’s always a blessing waiting!

 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for opening my eyes to Your truth. But, God, I know there’s still so much more for me to learn. I long to grow in You, and I understand that in order to know You better, I must follow wherever You lead. Help me trust You more and more. In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

 

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