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The Ugly Side Of You

February 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

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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.

Some Day

September 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

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Some day all things will be set right. Some day all things will be made new. Some day there will be a new heaven and earth. Some day New Jerusalem will come down to meet us. Some day the dwelling place of God will be with us. Some day there will be no more tears to dry.

Some day death will be no more. Some day we will see Him face to face. Some day His glory will flood the universe. Some day we will put on our resurrected bodies.

Some day every day will give way to eternal days. Some day there will be no more crying and pain. Some day we will receive from the spring of water without payment. Some day nations will walk together without war.

Some day bloodshed will be no more. Some day the future gives way to eternity with God. Some day might just be today.

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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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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.

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Standing before my Heavenly Father on that great last day will be full of Joy as my answer for living in His eternal kingdom will be, “Jesus.” You can’t build eternal life on anything other than God. Any other foundation is faulty and will produce a sure fall.

The way is narrow for a reason. It is narrow because He loves you so. He left no room to over-think eternal life. The words of His grace have called to each of us, “”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

John 3:17 teaches that God didn’t send His Son to condemn the world. Instead, He sent His Son that the world might be saved through Him. We didn’t need condemnation; we needed salvation. We were already under condemnation because of unbelief. However, when we believe on Christ and turn to Him in repentance, condemnation is washed away.

The hope of the believer is the Resurrection. In our resurrected bodies We will at last be fully human as He has purposed from the beginning. We will reflect the image of God perfectly and forever. One day, heaven and earth will come together forever and His glory will flood the universe. I hope to see you there.

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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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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.

 

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Luke 5:4 (ESV) And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,  “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

The most beautiful mystery of scripture is that God pursues you that you might pursue Him. God sent His Son so that all humanity has an opportunity of Salvation. He came to us and died for us while were yet sinners separated from Him. The pursuit of God is indeed beautiful and mysterious. The pursuit of God is always that you might follow.

Simply hearing the invitation to follow Him is not following. Talking about the invitation to follow is not following. Admiring those who have accepted the invitation to follow is not following. You only become a follower of Christ when you follow. In other words, you become something by doing.

Many years ago, my cousin used to talking about repelling down mountains all the time. Almost every time I was around him he would be telling stories of his latest adventure. His passion was evident as you listened to him.

After many months of hearing about repelling, listening to his stories and admiring the accomplishments he had performed, I was compelled to try the sport myself.

I asked him to take me repelling, and he did. The climb up the mountain was free. The view from the top of the mountain was free. Getting geared up for repelling was free. Watching him do it first was free. Doing it myself cost me something.

It cost me leaning back over the cliff and trusting the rope to hold me, and actually repelling down the face of the mountain. Once I reached the bottom of the mountain, I could and did officially call myself a repeller.

The same is true when it comes to following God. There are many who call themselves Christians, but it is quite another thing to call yourself a Christ follower. To call yourself a follower you must follow. You become a follower by following.

When Jesus told Peter to put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch, He was inviting Him one step closer to following Him. He was asking Peter to trust that He could make more out of life than Peter ever could on his own. When you respond to the leading of Jesus you are one step closer to following Jesus.

We know how the story ends. Peter obeys and a great catch of fish begins to break the nets. Peter is blown away and confesses that he is a sinful man. The command to follow is then given, and Peter’s life is changed forever. He moves past just hearing, listening and admiring. He becomes a follower by following.

I want you to know today that you will never become the true you until you follow God. You can never be fully human the way God intends for you to be unless you follow. You must do something to be something. The doing I’m referring to is to follow Him and bring Him the glory He alone rightfully deserves.

Kyle Idleman once wrote, “Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee.”

Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you something. You become a follower by following.

Silence

When God is silent it’s not because He has no words. When God is silent,  He is often saving the right words for the right moment. His right moment is almost never your right moment. Our moments are often engrossed on what it will do for us. His right moments are concentrated on what will bring Him the most glory.

For God’s glory,  all of life was created. The moment you understand that beautiful gift of truth, the closer you are to joy and peace. Silence is the calm before the perfect storm of God’s moments of truth to your soul. Time will soon usher in understanding. Franz Wright once wrote, “The long silences need to be loved, perhaps more than the words which arrive to describe them in time.”

Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, God has trusted you with His silence in order to prove Himself more real  than you could have ever imagined without it? I think the answer to that question is yes! Just ask Mary and Martha who saw Jesus raise their brother from the dead.

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There are two things I’m sure of. One, God is always faithful, and second, it’s possible to make an idol out of timing.  In 2 Timothy 2:13 it teaches us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” In other words, God is going to accomplish all things necessary for His glory alone. It’s not ultimately about us; it’s about God.

As to the second truth I’m sure of, timing is in God’s hands alone, and if we focus on the timing rather than God, we make timing an idol. I’ve done this many times in my Christian walk with God. I’ve been hoping for something, waiting for something, and wondering more about God’s timing than about God. Needless to say, it wasn’t until I got my focus off timing that God moved.

God created your life and cares more deeply about it than you do. God birthed His church and cares for it more deeply than you do. I guess you could add two more things to my list that I’m sure of. When it comes to your life and to His church, you can believe His plan is perfect and better than your plan. If fact, Ephesians 3:20, speaking of God says that He is, “…able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”

The power at work in us is God the Holy Spirit. He prays and knows the perfect will of God in and through us for His glory alone. The more we focus on God and not the circumstances or the timing of something that needs to happen, the faster God seems to move and get the job done for His glory.

For example, the church I now pastor was in need of a permanent church building. We had been  looking for over a year and a half. Nothing seemed to open for us. We were renting and doing okay, but still, we had no home of our own. Money in the bank was great and if we found something we could surely move on it with confidence.

However, God had a better plan. His plan was to get us to the place where it was impossible to point to our timing or money as the answer. Through a course of events,  the bulk of our money had dried up. We had money in the bank to meet the bills but nothing, and I mean NOTHING to go toward a property of our own.

Little did we know, God was dealing with a group of people who had a church, and was praying to God for His perfect will. The church was founded in 1917 and after many wonderful years God now had a next step plan. They were  feeling called to look for another church to continue moving forward with God’s plan.

One of the ladies in the other church was praying, and God showed her the face of a lady in our congregation. That prayer led to about two weeks of talk and prayer between our two church families.

To make a beautiful story short, (I will give a full account in our church history book) with no money to offer them to buy the building and much prayer from both our churches, they heard God speak and tell them to give us the building free and clear. What a magnificent miracle! Our timing was replaced with God’s timing and with no money hardly in the bank; God did what man couldn’t do.

I’m not sure what is going on in your life today, but you can know one thing for sure…God is able to move in your life for His glory without you having anything to give to Him at all. All you must do is keep your eyes on the one that has His eyes constantly on you.