We give God our best because our best isn’t restricted by a panic-stricken fear. We give God our best readily, often looking for a divine head nod of support. We regularly seek, not the depth of God, but only his thin layer of approval on our lives. However, giving God our ugly side rarely crosses our minds. Ugly hides in our hearts, safely tucked away-untamed and chained, yet deeply part of who we are. For freedom to reign in your life, for intimacy with the divine, ugly must be released upon the altar of God to be tamed by the Spirit of God. In short, you must allow God to love the ugly side of you.
Archives For Decisions
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Do you have a weight or a sin to set aside? If so, Jesus loves you too much to leave you where you are. The scriptures teach us that we must put off the old, be renewed in our minds and put on the new life that is found in Christ. Paul spoke in terms of dying daily. As Christ-followers, we must continually look ahead to the end goal of standing before Christ faces-to-faces.
Standing before Christ on Judgment day doesn’t have to be a thing of dread. Daily we can judge ourselves as concerning any weight or sin and do something about it right now. We can confess anything to God with a heart of repentance and He will forgive us of all unrighteousness. We are called to lay aside weights and sin!
Growing up my Father owned his own business. Each year, he would take the men and their kids on a fishing trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have incredible memories of those fishing trips. My Father loved making His on sinkers out of lead. He had all kinds of molds for different shapes and sizes. He would take a block of lead and melt it down and pour it into the different molds. I used to love watching him make the sinks and the best part was he taught me how to do it also.
One year he had several of the young kids put the weights on the fishing poles in advance of the trip. His thinking was it would save time by putting the weights and hooks on before we got to the Other Banks. All of us kids had fun tying the weights on the line, but the big mistake was no one checked the knots to make sure all was correct. The first day on the pier was a funny one! We had prepared about seven rods in advance and from all indications, it was going to be a great start to the week.
Each of use took a rod and prepared to cast them for the first time. Carefully checking behind us we each brought our fishing rods back and then propelled them forward to cast. Four of the seven rods gave us a surprise! The lines let go of the weights and all we could do was watch them fly through the air on a path to the deep blue grave of the ocean. As the fishing lines loosely fluttered in the wind, splashes in the ocean told the story of knots being tied wrong. Needless to say, we finally got everything right and had a great week but the point I want you to see, the illustration I want you to hold is the picture of the weight being let go to never been seen again.
If there is a weight of sin in your life today that is keeping you from moving forward with God, then you need to bring your spiritual fishing rod back and propelled that weight or sin into the deeps of his forgiveness to never see it again.
Unanswered pain won’t go unanswered forever…but it sure feels like it sometimes. Pain is a former thing that will one day pass away. Life has a way of bringing challenges into our lives that at times seem too much to endure. Aches, limitations and even permanent limitation haunt many this side of eternity. Depression that is inescapable and scarring that runs through the soul unhealed, call for many to give up…and they do.
For all the bad things pain brings…pain also acts as a signpost pointing to an end to pain forever. Pain has a small whisper calling for you to endure anyway. Pain speaks with a faint voice of courage and resourcefulness; calling us to take hold of the future that will one day be ours. Pain calls to you to help others who are going through similar pain until the pain is no more.
Revelation 21:4b stands true, “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” You will have a new body in the age to come. You will be untouched by the things of this present age. Pain, disease and any limitations will be forever cast aside.
For now, there is a call to press on, a call to endure by the power of His grace, which is sufficient for all things and all circumstances. Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn in the flesh. The answer he received from the Lord was simply this, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
When you love like Christ you trade your advantage for His. A self-interest driven world only leads to destruction. God’s love heals! God’s love through us points people to the way home. You can’t force people to accept the only true way of salvation found in Christ alone, but you can love them and shine a light that leaves them with no excuse.
Biblical love goes deeper than a definition. Biblical love is demonstrated. The bible never really defines love per se; it describes it with actions. Love is more than a definition; love is action leaping off the page of scripture and into our world as God uses us to be salt and light to a world that has not properly defined what true love is.
Jesus didn’t just define love; He demonstrated love. It has been said, “Jesus defined love in terms of sacrificial actions rather than words or emotions.” The greatest demonstration of love is found in looking at the cross in your heart and in your minds eye before you interact with others. No one could take His life. He gave His life. That is love.
The very character of God is love and His character seeks to work through His born again creation for the sake of those outside the faith. God’s love for the world and for those inside the faith shouldn’t be missing from the Christ follower’s life. Love is only loving when it acts. The grace that heals the world is God’s relentless love working through you.
Demonstrate the love of 1 Corinthians 13 today and you will be walking in the power of God’s love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
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.
Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden once wrote, “Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning. . . . We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all, but I feel them.
Original sin is the story of the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve disobey God and death had a birthday. The story of Cain and Abel is the story of violence finding its first platform of death and destruction.
Brian Zanhd in his book, Beauty Will Save The World, teaches that the picture of individuals going wrong is seen in the story of Adam and Eve and the picture of civilization going wrong is seen in the story of Cain and Abel.
Separation from God and violence was never God’s plan for us as individuals or for civilization. We were created to reflect the image of God. We were designed to take care of each other. Violence is not the way of the kingdom of God.
God’s rule and reign in the here and now is not through violence and power. His rule and His reign are through the work of the Holy Spirit working not only in us, but through us toward others by the power of love.
Love is the greatest power ever known to man. Love was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. When violence taunted Jesus to fight back, He fought back with love and not violence. He took all the sins of the world and its violence upon himself and said, “It is finished!” He defeated it with love. So must we!
We can only love like God when we move toward God in submission. We must not be violent to get our way. The Gospel was never gifted to us to force upon the sinner. It was gifted to us to love the sinner to the foot of the cross. Violence will always and only be seen as corrupt in God’s sight. (See Genesis 6:11-13)
The Church is called to be God’s new humanity in the world. We are not called to call down fire like James and John wanted to do when Jesus was rejected. They asked to call fire down, and Jesus warned them that they knew not what spirit they were being lead by.
When we live God’s peace to the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. When we follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, we find that we are following Jesus.
When you and I answer the call to deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ, we are baptized to the imperative call to love our enemies. Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and never about retaliation. I’ve heard it said many ways and it is true…the beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places.
We are called to be light. We are called to walk in His love. Both are done in the darkness, and both cast darkness out. Now walk bold today my friend. Walk in love. You will find you are walking in the footsteps of Christ Himself.
You are growing toward eternity, and that being true, you must live toward eternity with all of your life. The beautiful virtues of Christ, taught as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, as He shared the story of the Good Samaritan, as taught in Matthew 25, can all be lived by the Spirit of God working in us, and through us.
When we feed the hungry in our broken world, we are pointing ahead to the future where there will be no more hunger. When we give water to the thirsty in the present, we are pointing ahead to the future where there will be no more thirst. When we clothe the naked in our midst, we are pointing ahead to the future where there will be no more want.
Most importantly, when we live God’s kingdom virtues in the present-day, we bring God the most glory, and show the world that His kingdom is at work right now among them. As a Christ follower, you are filled with God’s Spirit. Anywhere and everywhere you go, the Spirit of God is alive, and yearning to work God’s love through you. His love cast out all fear and evil. His love drives out the darkness and fills the voids of the wounded.
Beauty breaks through the thin vile that separates heaven and the earth when we live the prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When we live that prayer, the image of God is not distorted, but clear, powerful and complaining.
How will you live? The way you live follows you into the kingdom.
Wounds can produce the most amazing and beautiful testimonies for God’s glory. The story of your wounds becomes His glories story when you put them in His hands. Wounds show that we as Christ followers are being healed toward a future where wounds will be no more.
Holding on becomes easier when you know He is holding you instead of you holding on to Him. Meaning for your wounds may come, meaning for your wounds may not come, but soon and very soon you will understand- when eternity breaks in to heal the earthbound wounds of this age.
In the now, we count the times we pray for complete healing, but then, prayer will not be needed. He may heal you now, but He will certainly heal you then. Keep moving; keep believe, and keep living because He, with wounds in His hands, side and feet- lives for you. In fact, His wounds were for your ultimate healing.
Wounds that remain don’t mean that He doesn’t hear you or care for you. In fact, wounds that continue testify to the fact that He is true and alive. Jesus said in this world you would have trouble. However, He went on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We walk through the shadows now only to eventually walk into the eternal day He promised.
You were not called to conceal your pain. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken.”
You are a wounded healer being healed.
When we live God’s peace in the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. Love was manifested on the cross and was given to the world while we were yet sinners.
When I follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, I find I’m following Jesus. When you answer the call to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow Christ, you are baptized to the imperative call to love your enemies.
Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and not retaliation. The beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places when they are demonstrated and not just spoken about.
Where are you shining the light of God’s love and kindness? I’m sure you shine it among the believers, but do you shine it among the wolves? We must never forget the wolf can be transformed. At last, “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;…” Isaiah 11:6a
Isaiah 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
In Isaiah 54, God has offered forgiveness and now in chapter 55 the call to walk in forgiveness is given. It is not enough to be free; we must live free. We don’t have to order our lives around the axis of a world system that begs for us to dance as its puppets. We don’t have to order our lives around a fragmented social system that includes only those with more power.
In God’s order, everyone is included. We have a Christ centered alternative to be fully human and live fully human in Him and His redeemed order of justice. We have been given the choice of the one that choose us. In Christ, we are the tribe of Revelation 7:9-10
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NKJV)
We are His redeemed community living a life of radical love in a sea of hatefulness. We render not evil for evil, but we love our way through this age until the age to come overtakes us, and death is swallowed up forever.
We need not use violence to fight for our rights, but instead as one writer has so eloquently put it, “Our violent ways find an end in the wounds of Christ, and in his forgiveness we are offered healing from our self-inflicted pain.”
For now, death remains but soon death will be swallowed up forever.
Isaiah 25:6-9 (ESV) 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”