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You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life. God is love; therefore, love is vital. 1 John 4 commands us to love one another because love is from God. The fruit of being born of God and the fruit of knowing God is the love of God seeking to work through you.

God’s love is relentless toward the world. God’s love is relentless toward you. Therefore, His relentless love should be relentless through each of us. It’s time we look inside the church family to see how well we’re loving one another. We need to get it right in house in order to truly get it right out there in the world.

The world is looking for an alternative community that fills the empty God void of their lives. The problem is not so much the world if you think about it. The world is doing what it’s supposed to do. The world is a dark place and has learned to live in that ever-increasing darkness.

The world functions in their darkness. They play by the rules of darkness. It’s not until children of the light love them like Christ that they awake to the emptiness of their lives. John 13:34-35 commands Christ followers to love one another in the same way Christ has loved us. The importance of why is found in verse 35 where it teaches, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The majority of weddings I officiate ask me to use 1 Corinthians 13 as a scripture reading somewhere during the ceremony. It’s often viewed as a stand along poem. However, it must fuller than that!

Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians is about spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. Chapter 14 then goes on to teach us to pursue love and desire gifts to ministry with. We must never forget that chapter 13 is placed in the middle of those bookends. Love is at the center of God’s alternative community and must be what we are most known for.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV)

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

The more excellent way is love! The gospel calls us to live a love that is beyond self-interest. If you take love out of your home, out of your community, out of your country or out of the world, you have nothing and you are nothing as it relates to eternal value. You are empty. The world is empty. Godless love is empty love.

You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life.

Don’t believe me yet? Don’t read the next three verses. Let the next three verses read you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (ESV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love, the church should stop calling itself a church. Without love, the Christ follower is not truly following Christ. Without love, neither the church nor the Christ follower lay up anything of eternal value.

WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.

We can’t love Him without loving others. Love is an outflow of a true relationship with God. Love is vital.

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Jesuslike

The only prophetic voice that spoke on Golgotha was from the middle cross. The man on the left cross-needed the man on the middle, and the man on the right cross-needed the man on the middle also.

The only redemptive work taking place that day was from the man in the middle. He was 100% man and 100% God. God in the middle was showing the world the only way to eternal life. Choosing the man in the middle makes you the only alternative society that has the right answer.

In a world of ugly, beauty can only be seen through the lens of the cross and what Jesus accomplished by willfully submitting to His Father’s will. Only by following the suffering of the cross can we live as sheep among the wolves of the left and right.

The only thing that will ever change the world is when His followers simply follow Him. When we choose the left we are not choosing Jesus. When we choose the right we are not choosing Jesus. Only when we choose the man in the middle do we choose the path that leads to Heaven and Earth coming together.

The cross of Christ takes away resentment and fills our hearts with hope. Down through the centuries, resentment and power have crucified many. However, resentment and power met its match the day it confronted Jesus.   Resentment and power  was confronted by love and love won forever!

Jesus took the dreadfulness and ugliness of a Roman cross and painted it with the beauty of God’s own blood so that humanity could be free from evil forever.  Freedom comes when you choose the man in the middle. Once we choose the man in the middle, we are called to a different way of living. We are no long left or right. We are now the middle. As the writer Brian Zahnd says, “We are to model what it means to be Christ-like in a Caesar-like world.”

Along with Paul, we cry out, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

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Revelation 6:10 (NKJV)
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

There is coming a day that every known and unknown part of the universe will breathe a final sign of freedom. God’s perfect fullness will flood the earth as the waters cover the sea. The kingdoms of this world offered by Satan at the temptation of Jesus will fully and forever become the kingdoms of the Father and of Christ our Lord.

Revelation 21 will become reality as heaven and earth renewed will be forever and justly ruled under the righteousness of Christ. Humanity will be embraced with complete and perfect love as God makes His dwelling among His creation. Evil will be no more.

The redeemed of God will live in the perfect reality that God had intended all along for His creation. History shows us the great price paid for the guarantee of God’s glories eternal future. That history I write off is the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

The accomplished work and love of Christ has opened the beauty of eternity to all who will trust and believe in His finished work. We don’t have to live our lives asking, “Why is evil permitted to continue?” We can, because of the cross and resurrection, ask, “How long?” To the latter question I can hear the whisper of the Spirit, “Not long; not long.”

Romans 8:23 teaches that creation is not alone in its groaning for final redemption. We, the body of Christ as the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan also as we eagerly wait for our adoption, which is the redemption of our bodies. We long to be born fully into what we were always meant to be. We are saved. We are being saved. We will forever be saved.

Our cry is not, “Why?” Our cry is, “How long?”

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When you become a believer you belong to a family. Just as sure as you were born into a family, you were born into another family the day you accepted Christ as Lord of your life.

You are in a relationship with Christ that is intimate and therefore, you have a relationship with His family, the church. You and I make up the body of Christ, which is the family of God.

You belong to a group that is changing the world through the power of His resurrection. You are vital to the body of Christ.  You can’t claim to be in the body but not part of the body.

I love what Rick Warren once said, “Whenever we become careless about fellowship, everything else begins to slide, too. Membership in the family of God is neither inconsequential nor something to be casually ignored. The church is God’s agenda for the world.”

How are you doing with your church attendance? Do you see it as a take it or leave it option? I challenge you today to reexamine your thoughts about church. I challenge you to allow your individualism thinking to melt away into the beauty of God’s fellowship of the saints.

Never forget that as a Christ follower you are called to be among His disciples and not separate from them. You can’t just have a bible close by and pray from time to time and call yourself complete. If you are living like that for Jesus, you are not complete without the church fellowship.

To reference Rick Warren again, “A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family.”  You are loved and needed. God has a plan and an irreplaceable role for you in His church family, the body of Christ.

I once heard a person say, and I’ve repeated it from the pulpit before, “People don’t have a problem with Christ; they have a problem with the church.” I believe we can and should change that. You are part of that change when you faithfully attend church with your family each week.

Allow me one final thought from Pastor Warren who says, “Except for a few important instances referring to all believers throughout history, almost every time the word church is used in the Bible it refers to a local, visible congregation.”

How is your church attendance? Have you kicked your family to the curb?

Feelings1

I’m empty today. There is nothing inside of me that is happy. I’m my own worse nightmare. I break promises to God all the time, and I feel there is no way He can love me knowing the thoughts of my heart.

Bitterness haunts me and broken dreams seem to be the only thing in front of me. I keep going and yet deep inside I long for another direction for my life. I question if God knows what He is doing in my life. I fail so often I’ve almost started to expect nothing less.

I wonder constantly how to be a better Father, and yet I seem to never follow through on things and time is slipping away. I desperately want to be a better husband and yet I fall short time and time again. I want to be a better pastor, but I’m confused to what all that means and I wonder if I’m just setting myself up for more disappointment.

I write these things today to show you the voices I encounter on a daily basis, but I also write to tell you more.

I’m actually not empty because He said He would always be with me. That is a promise I can count on regardless of feelings. I don’t have to always be happy because He has promised me joy by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t have to worry about being my own worse nightmare because He is for me. I may break promises, but He is the God of mercy and even though He sees the thoughts of my heart, He knows I’m but clay and loves me anyway.

The Bitterness that comes from broken dreams only proves He has a better plan and a better way. The longing for another direction is only a thought of momentary escape, and God knows I’m committed until the end. He is not afraid of my questioning Him because in doing so, I’m drawn closer to His heart. I might fail more often than succeed, but He is there to pick me up when everyone else has run away.

He whispers to me that being a Father is not about being perfect but about loving them and pointing them toward Him, the perfect Father of all. He encourages me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and yet knows I will fail from time to time. Again He shows me His mercy and Grace. He calls to me to remain steadfast in being a pastor and promises me that when the chief Shepherd appears, I will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Oh the beauty of following Christ! Maybe you have similar feelings about your life today? If you do have similar feelings, then welcome to the human story. If you do have similar feelings, then He knows all about them. If you do have similar feelings, then you need to know they will one day pass away forever. Until then, keep walking, keep believing for He is with you.

mute button
You were called to be more than just aware of God’s presence in your life. You were called to be awakened to the presence of God in your life.

There was a time in my life when I was just aware of God. I was religious. I attended the church. I knew the praise songs by heart. I liked the preacher. I liked the people I went to church with. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I was good at checking the God box in order to feel like my life had balance.

What I really needed was a relationship that was fully awake to God speaking into my life. I had just enough religion to smell Christian. I was aware of God but not awakened to God.

Allow me to Illustrate it for you.

There are times I’ll be watching T.V. and my wife begins to talk with me. I can hear her talking…I’m aware of her presence, but I’m not awakened to her. The T.V. has my full attention, and I can just kind of hear her in the background. It’s not until I mute the T.V, turn and look her in the eyes that she has my full attention. When I mute the T.V., I move from awareness to an awakening.

The bible tells us; we are able to hear God’s voice and we will not follow another. We can only hear Him and follow Him, when we mute the other voices that are competing for our attention.

When you mute the other voices, you move from awareness to an awakening. If you find yourself just being aware of God in your life…then hit the mute button. You would be amazed at how fast you wake up.

churchservice

Where do you rank church attendance?

On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the greatest, where to you place attending church service?

In light of Hebrews 10:24-25, it is an serious question to ask and answer for yourself.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

First, you must have a little background information on the text.

1. It was written to Christ followers.

2. There were false teachers encouraging Christ followers to abandon their faith.

3. The letter of Hebrews has already made some strong points on faithfulness leading up to this portion of scripture.

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (Note: lest we drift away)

Hebrews 3:12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; (Note: departing from living God)

Hebrews 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Note: dull of hearing)

Now let’s take a look at Hebrews 10:24-25 with the three points I just made and with the three scriptures I just pointed out in mind.

Verse 24 tells us to CONSIDER one another in order to STIR up LOVE and GOOD WORKS

  • The word CONSIDER means to reflect deeply and always.
  • The fruit of CONSIDERING becomes PROVOKING each other to LOVE and GOOD WORKS.
  • We actually inspire each other forward in our faith.

Verse 25 tells us not to FORSAKE the assembling of ourselves together.

  • If you do a word study of “Forsaking,” it is in a tense that is present form.
  • In other words, it is a repeated action.
  • Some had forsaking, hence the warning.

Finally, the latter half of verse 25 tells us, To EXHORT one another, and so much the more as you SEE THE DAY APPROACHING

  • There is a high degree of obligation attached to the final part of the verse 25.
  • It is connected to THE DAY OF THE LORD.
  • In other words, the period of time when God’s will and purpose for all of creation and humanity is finally and entirely fulfilled.

Now…with the above information, I ask you the question once again.

Where do you rank church attendance?