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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.

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I’m not a big fan of cursing the darkness. As a Christ follower,  we should be primarily concerned with being salt and light. While it’s true, the Bible calls us to reprove the works of darkness, reproving darkness and cursing the darkness are two different approaches entirely.

Cursing the darkness is throwing condemnation at those who are outside of Christ, while reproving darkness is shining our light as to awaken the sinner from their sleep. The first is done in the same spirit Jesus rebuke James and John for when they wanted to call fire down on those who rejected Christ. (See Luke 9:54)

The latter is done in the Spirit of love that understands that those outside of Christ are under condemnation already, and we have no need to throw more their way. (See John 3:18) If we are to win the world to Christ, we must do so in the greatest power know to man, which is the love of God.

Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart. Jesus died to prove love real. We are called to do more than talk about grace; we are called to demonstrate grace to everyone. Yes, Even the ungrateful and evil. (See Luke 6:35)

In Ephesians 5,  we are called to take no part in unfruitful works of darkness. We are told to expose them. We expose them by  letting our light shine, and be visible, not by trying to curse the darkness and win a religious argument. When we love like Christ, His light shines and awakens the sleeper from darkness to light.

Many Christ followers need to return to trusting in the love of God to win the lost. We need to  stop trying to win them by persuasive arguments of men, arguments of condemnation.

Allow me to say it again, Hate never reached or rescued anyone, but love has proved time and time again to rescue the most hardened heart.

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There will be times that God causes you to notice people, and at other times He will simply lead someone right to you directly. I have had both of these happen in my life, almost on a daily basis.

Once, I was in a local store in California shopping with my family. My son Noah had to use the restroom. After we finished, we were on our way back to meet my wife and daughter, when I noticed a woman visibly upset. God touched my spirit and caused me to stop. I asked her, “What’s troubling you?” “Nothing,” she replied. I then said, “Are you sure?”

She responded by letting me know I would not want to hear it. I assured her, I would not have stopped if I didn’t want to hear it. She smiled and began to pour her heart out. She spoke to me for about five minutes about all that was going wrong for her. Her troubles were pressing in on her, and she felt alone and helpless. She was frustrated, angry and bitter about life.

I listened to every word she said, and I never broke eye contact. My son watching was just an added bonus because I knew he would ask me later why we stopped for a total stranger, and I would have the opportunity to pour into him compassion ministry. When the lady was finished speaking, I said, “You know, I bet the rest of your day is going to be just fine.”

She laughed and said, “I think you’re right. Thanks for taking the time to listen.” “You’re welcome,” I said and my son and I departed. I know it sounded effortless and not much like a miracle, but for her it meant everything. It was the miracle she needed for the day.

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 48-49).  . Kindle Edition.

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As a Christ follower, you are never alone. Every time the enemy confronts you, God has already faced him. We are fighting against a defeated foe. We are fighting against a defeated spiritual power that has already lost because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We serve and follow Jesus who is Lord of yesterday, today and forever. That’s why everywhere you go, you can be assured that Jesus is on the inside of you by the power of the Holy Spirit, creating a sacred space no matter where you find yourself. God is on the inside of you and surrounds you with His love.

You bring the pure love of God, and the very presence of God, into the middle of everywhere you journey. Christ in you creates a sacred space through you. There is something extraordinarily unique about knowing you carry the very Gospel and presence of God among a world of darkness.

His light shines through to everyone you meet. You carry the message that one day heave and earth will be renewed. Your renewed life in Christ is a sign post point to that sure and promised future.

N.T Wright put it this way, “Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.”

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Do you have a life worth imitating? I once heard a speaker ask that question and it stopped my world for a while. I asked myself over and over that whole day, “Do I have a life worth imitating?”

My first reaction was, “no!” I could hear a voice coming from somewhere saying, “You’re not horrible but you are way to messed up for anybody to imitate.” I could feel myself giving credence to the voice of distraction. The voice was somewhat correct. I am kind of messed up.  I imagine you feel the same way at times.

Then it hit me. It was the Apostle Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “ Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” The great and messed up Apostle himself giving a command to allow others to imitate him as he also imitated Christ.

Imitating Christ is the key and not me being perfect. In Christ, I’m righteous and forgiving. In Christ, I’m a mess in the working. In Christ, is the only answer I have because He is the only answer.

N.T. Wright speaking about the resurrection of Christ says this, “The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.” You are invited to belong even as messed up as you are and you’re heading toward eternal life. When you understand that, you then can easily understand the necessity to invite other to imitate you as you imitate Christ.

Paul knew a perfect and freeing fact! Listen with your heart to what he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Now get out there and find someone to disciple by calling him or her to imitate you. That’s how disciples are made, and yes, sometimes it’s messed up and muddy. That is what happens when you get up closer with each other.

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Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

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Philippians 2:19-23
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

Paul looked around his spiritual table and saw in Timothy a heart that was faithful, available and teachable. Paul saw a heart in Timothy that noticed the unnoticed of the world. Paul was confident in Timothy that he truly was a man that could see the invisible of the world and love them with the love of Christ.

When you first read this portion of scripture it looks like ordinary traveling plans, but when you lift the hood and look into the engine that actually drives this passage you see the heart of God that is undivided beating inside Timothy. Timothy didn’t seek  his own interest first; he first looked after the things of God. Paul said, “I have no one like-minded…” In other words, when he looked for an undivided heart around his table he found Timothy.

Let me ask you a question today. If you were sitting around Paul’s table would he have picked you? At first, it’s easy to answer yes, but don’t be to quick to pat yourself on the back-myself included. We are called to see the unnoticed and to respond with the love of Christ. In order to see them and love them with action, we must have an undivided heart of obedience.

Have you ever noticed a person that is outside your circle and alone? You see them and know in your heart they need someone to reach out to them but instead of taking a few moments to encourage them, you pass on by. Has that ever happened to you? You know God is leading you to talk with them, but you go in another direction, thus untimely saying no to God.

I’m always amazed at how demons obey God; nature always obeys God, but man struggles with it. I challenge you today to make a commitment to obey God and notice the unnoticed of the world around you. I challenge you today to see the invisible and love them with the love of Christ. I challenge you because I challenge myself to do the same also. It’s just too easy to walk on by, and as Christ followers we must change that quickly.

God is looking around His table for an undivided heart. He is looking of a heart for the invisible.  Will He choose you today? Will you obey?

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Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

From creation to new creation what will you contribute? I know that is a staggering question but it’s one you need to be thinking about often. We all leave a story behind after we draw our last breath. We leave behind not only a story that others will remember, but we leave behind a story that follows us into eternity.

When my time comes to step over into eternity, I want my children and their children to be able to pick up a breadcrumb trail that speaks of following Jesus. I’m sure they will discover my sinfulness. We are all sinners, but I’m hopeful and sure they will also see my surrender to the only one that can set it all right again. They will find I followed Jesus.

Everyday choices paint your part of the story between creation and new creation. What is your canvas looking like? Are you living up to the identity God has set for you?  Christ has caused you to be a new creation in Him. He has bought you with a price. He has set you apart for His glory and sprinkled you among the world to be salt and light.

Are you surrendered today to the pen of God who wants to write a story through your life? He wants your life to be an echo to the world of how to be set free, of how to truly live, of what He has prepared for those who follow Him. Are you allowing God to have all of you? As one writer has said about the story God is writing, “He is its beginning, end and center. It is the story of the mission of God, of this God and no other.”

Is your life inviting people to hear God, to see God, to want a relationship with the God you follow? If not, you can change all that in a moment. Surrender again to His Lordship. Let Him take over the story of your life again. You were meant to worship God alone with all of your life.

Christopher J. H. Wright once wrote, “What a travesty it is when humans, who themselves are the work of God’s hands and were made to rule the rest of the works of God’s hands, choose instead to worship the work of their own hands (Ps. 115:4).”

You are leaving a legacy! What is that legacy? It can be His story through you if you will simply follow Him fresh again.

 

 

 

Who Will You Affirm Today?

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Everyone needs affirmation. Whom will you affirm today? I’m not talking about just giving someone a passing acknowledgement. I’m speaking of giving a compliment, an affirmation that is life giving.

As Christ followers,  we have been placed in the harvest field of life surrounded by humanity and their felt needs. We are called to build others up, where the world and possibly their own idea of themselves have torn them down.

Take time today to notice someone whom you know has not been noticed in awhile. Make a comment that places value in their life. For example, if you work with them share how effective they are to the workplace. Deposit confidence into their life. When you do that, you uplift their worth.

You just never know who might be close to giving up. Your words of hope could be the precise thing that keeps them going. As Christ followers,  we should be looking for ways to take away the feelings of insignificance that others might be secretly carrying deep inside.

As you face the world around you daily, walk in the power and passion of Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  We are called to do more for the world than it does for us. We can accomplish that by thinking of others before ourselves.

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1 Peter 1:3- 5
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

His mercy for those who follow Him has caused us to be born again to a hope that is living and empowered by His resurrection. You are a person of the future, living in the now and sharing the hope of the future up close and personal for a lost world to see.

You are the promoter of an inheritance that can’t perish, that can’t be defiled and will never fade. This inheritance is being kept for you and for those you lead to the Lord.

God’s power is keeping watch of you and He is keeping watching over the future that is now and not yet. There is a day appointed; there is a day coming that you and I will be healed completely.

You and I have a responsibility to live our new identity in Christ so the world will know the way to true life.

John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Now go be a promoter for Christ today.

Promote the future of Habakkuk 2:14,
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”