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Don’t mute Jesus. Excel in making Him known through loving the unlovable. Jesus never chose sides. He loved the world. He hung on the middle cross loving both the one on the left and the one on the right. He chose them both, but only one chose Him that day. He chooses everyone that everyone might have the chance to repent and turn to Him in surrender. 2 Peter 3:9b teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The only division Christ came to bring was to a division that points all of humanity to a decision for Him or against Him. He did so because choosing Him or rejecting Him is the only eternal choice that really matters in this age, or the age to come. You must point humanity to the middle cross every day of your life through your actions and your words. People in our world are hungry to belong. They are hungry and thirsty to be heard, valued and love unconditionally.

Pointing humanity to the left or to the right will never satisfy the hole in their lives. Pointing them to the middle cross is the only answer. In John 6 Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is still offering that call to the world today. He doesn’t offer it through himself (his physical presence) anymore because He sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to return. However, he still offers it through us, His children by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ followers,  you and I have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us seeking to serve and rescue the world. The rescuing of the world doesn’t happen by following the media, or by choosing the left or right. Rescuing happens by choosing to obey the command of love, and pointing the world to the middle cross where Jesus stretched out His arms wide to embrace everyone who would hear.

Will you obey and follow His leading, or will you be a quencher of the Spirit? Will you mute Jesus today by choosing the left or the right or will you live for Him and promote Him today by choosing the middle? The middle cross is still the only answer for the world because Jesus used it to defeat evil forever. Jesus turned an ugly cross of Rome into a vision of beauty that rescues the world.  His crucifixion was the greatest act of love ever accomplished for humanity, and it’s still the only path that leads us home.

Let There Be

July 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I find it perfectly beautiful that God didn’t curse the darkness and chaos of creation to call it forth. He simply spoke in perfect love, “Let there be…”

There is a “let there be” moment in every life of chaos we encounter.

It takes time. God didn’t speak to the creation in just one day.

Let us never forget there is eternal life waiting to be called forth in every dark corner of the world and yes, even your community.

never-stop-loving1

God has no rival when it comes to His lavish kindness to the ungrateful and wicked. In our own power,  we are not capable of loving the way He loves. He is love. He is Kindness. We are but mere reflections that only get it right when we allow Him to love through us those that position themselves as unlovable, unreachable, ungrateful and wicked.

We can’t love our enemies without submitting to the Spirit of God that lives on the inside of us. Yes,  you will be hurt loving like God but remaining gracefully vulnerable after being burnt time and time again is a bi-product of God’s love through you.

We are called to observable and working love for our enemies. The love that Jesus wants to operate through our lives is not abstract. It’s not a concept hidden in the treasure chest of your mind as just another hopeful idea. His love demonstrates itself by radical counter-culture actions.

The supreme absolution of all is to convert an enemy into a friend of God through the God pattern of kingdom love. When you love like God you’re not losing your mind; you’re imitating His heart and causing God’s kingdom to break into the world.

Matthew 5: 43-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

second-thoughts

The primary key to operating an automobile is being in control of the vehicle and not vice versa. Can you imagine letting go of the wheel and letting the car take you where it wants to go? If the car is aligned correctly, you might make it a few hundred feet before running off the road and crashing. However,  the crash would surely happen unless you regained control by taking hold of the wheel again.

Thoughts have the same potential. You can control them and have a great adventure of faith or you can let go of the “Wheel,” and let them take you where they want to go. You might cruise unharmed for a few hundred feet, but sooner of later you are going to crash unless you regain control of your thoughts for God’s purpose.

Your thoughts can be a temple of worship for God, or your thoughts can be an idol of destruction that leads you astray and off course. The choice is your choice to make. Each of us needs to take control of our thoughts, giving them over to God along with everything else in our lives.

We are commanded in scripture to bring every thought into obedience to Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:10) Every thought means every thought. We are called to bring the good, bad and the ugly thoughts to the feet of Jesus and filter them there.

Believe it or not, you have exceptional control over what you do with your thoughts. Thoughts coming into your mind are often fast and furious, but they are never non-controllable. When a thought comes to you, a choice has to be made and can be made.

I challenge you today. Take inventory of your thought life today. It will tell you much about yourself. Ask God to make you more awake to what’s on your mind. Ask God to help move you in Godly directions with your thought life.  I promise you that if you fill your mind with good thoughts, the bad will soon dilute and lose power of influence in your life.

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

voice

Is it possible for your life to be a prophetic voice to the world? Can your life and mine as Christ followers be lived in such a way that our everyday life can describe and predict what will happen in the future? I believe the answer is an indisputable, “yes.”

The moment you trust Jesus as Lord, a work of God begins in your whole life. God’s goal is to finish what He has started in your life. You have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you have the power of the Holy Spirit living on the inside of you.

To put it in very simple terms, you are being shaped by God’s will and purpose. Every act of obedience He calls you to obey is shaping you more and more into His image. You are being shaped in the now from the viewpoint of His revealed end of Revelation 21:1-5.

As Christ followers, we are to embrace God’s end story reality and set our life in the full direction of that goal. We exercise faithfully our living faith in the now, how it will one day fully be when heaven and earth come together once and for all.

There are many examples that do well to illustrate this profound and exciting truth. I will share just one. Let’s say you wanted your body to look a certain way. You would first envision a preferred future for your body to look like, and then you would begin working daily toward that preferred shape by exercising and adjusting your eating habits to attain your goal.

This same is true with your kingdom life and this world. When we come to understand and live the virtues of the future kingdom we are announcing with a prophetic voice that Jesus is the one true Lord. When we live God’s future now, we show in advance His future will one day be a present reality for eternity.

In God’s future,  there is no more crying, pain or death. You can be assured there are no more injustices. All things will be made new, and all the old will have passed away.  I love Matthew 25 where Jesus says, for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

When we give someone that is hungry something to eat, we are saying to him or her, “One day you will never hunger again.” When we give to someone who is thirsty a cool drink of water, we are saying to him or her, “One day you will never thirsty again.” The same is true with the rest of God’s kingdom works. In each act of kindness done in the name of Jesus, we are a prophetic voice shaping the world for His glory.

Is it possible for your life to be a prophetic voice to the world? I believe the answer is an indisputable, “yes.”

carrying-sheep

1 Samuel 16:11
11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”

While David was caring for sheep, God was caring for him. God didn’t overlook David, and neither does God overlook you.

Experiencing the pain of being overlooked touches each of us from time to time and can be extremely difficult to carry. Being overlooked transcends age, gender, culture, rich and poor. The loneliest place to serve God is in the land of the overlooked.

I’ve often thought about David and what it must have been like to be around 15 years of age watching sheep day in and day out. I find myself asking questions of wonder. Did David ever feel loneliness living in the shadow of his older brothers? Did David drift away in his thinking while watching the sheep, thinking to himself, “Will I always be overlooked and stuck out here in the field smelling like sheep?” When David played games with his older brothers and the neighborhood kids, was he picked last? If Dave was anything like you and me, then the answer to those questions are an unqualified, “Yes.”

I remind you again; while David was caring for sheep, God was caring for him. God didn’t overlook David, and neither does God overlook you.

Everyone wants to feel significant, that their life matters, that they have a place in this world. However, you must never forget that God looks not to you in order to give you significance; He looks toward you in order that your life will make great significance of Him to a lost and dying world.

Allow me to make a few statements of clarification at this point before we continue on. God never overlooks you, but God doesn’t look your way in order to make much of you; God looks your way in order to make much of Him. In other words, life is not about you and me ultimately.

Life is about God’s glory. When you come to realize that one simple point, then and only then can you truly be free to live as God has purposed. Otherwise you are trapped serving yourself first and God second.

I opened this devotion with the scripture of David being called from the field, where he stood before God and his brothers to receive the anointing as the future king. The older brothers were all passed over for this particular purpose. It was David God wanted to be king and not any one of them. That’s not to say they were overlooked because God never overlooks any of His children. It’s simply to say that God’s plan for their lives had a very different direction.

In 1 Samuel 16:12-13 we read, “12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

David went from being overlooked by the world around him to learn in a moment that God had not overlooked him at all. While David was caring for sheep, God was caring for him. God didn’t overlook David, and neither does God overlook you.

As I close this devotion, I leave you with one last meditation. David received his call and found out he wasn’t overlooked; however he returned to taking care of the sheep until God directed him otherwise. Never forget, it was about 15 years between David’s anointing as king until he took the throne.

While David was caring for sheep, God was caring for him. God didn’t overlook David, and neither does God overlook you.

YouAreTheTemple

You are a meeting place of heaven and earth if the Spirit of God lives inside of you. You are God’s temple. Everywhere you go your create a sacred space of His presence. Each of us stands individually, and yet at the same time, we don’t stand alone but rather we stand corporately as the body of Christ, the dwelling place of God Himself.

In this broken world, we stand as witnesses of His glory . In this broken world, we stand as a testimony in advance that the world is indeed being healed and will one day fully be so. Brian Zahnd once wrote, “Christianity as the ongoing expression of the Jesus story lived out in the lives of individuals and in the heart of society is a beauty that can redeem the world.”

Because we worship Him with all of our lives we take on something of the character of Christ who we worship and when the world sees that beauty, they want to belong to it. It is our call, and our duty to help the world to see and recognize its true creator that lives inside of His followers by obeying Him to love our enemies and standing up for justice.

From Genesis forward, God has dedicated Himself to working through His creation of humanity. We are His image-bearing human beings that are called to shine as light in the darkness. We have failed Him often, but yet He loves us and seeks to bring Himself glory through our lives. He plans to set all things right in the end and still yet He uses our lives to push everything toward that day of final redemption. We truly are a meeting place of heaven and earth for an unbelieving world to witness because Christ is living in us.

We serve the rescuer of the world and to Him alone belongs all the glory. We exist to worship God and to labor for His kingdom that will never be shaken. With knowledge of this magnitude, we can live with an abundant song of joy and victory in our hearts right now. As one writer has so eloquently put it, “It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world.”

God is at work in you today. Walk meek and rejoice that He desire to use you to bring Him glory in the world.

imitating

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.

jesus-friend-of-sinners

Technology is always changing. Technology seems to change faster than we can buy the latest update. We buy the latest computer or smartphone, and before we walk out of the store, the next big thing is being hinted at. The only solace is the fact that you and I, as consumers, understand the new will get old and then the new will replace it once again. We know this will occur over and over.

In Luke 5:27-39 Jesus doesn’t speak of technology. I don’t think He had an iPhone on him, but He does speak of things changing. In fact, He speaks of things changing that will never go back to the way they were. The reality is, it’s impossible for the newness He is bringing to fit in the old way of life.

In the time of Jesus, they had a hope that God would deliver His new age, and it would never have to be updated again. In other words, His new age would never be outdated. Everything that was old would fade away, the newness of God would arrive, and that would be that! There would be no repeating of the process.

Jesus is sitting with tax collectors. They were hated, and considered by many, the worst of sinners. The religious kept their distance from people like them. However, Jesus enjoyed their company and brought newness and hope into the middle of their lives. I’ve said before, “You can’t be a doctor and not hang with the sick. Likewise, you can’t be a Christ follower and not hang with sinners.”

Just like Christ, we also must wait among the sinners and share the story that the world truly changed with the coming of Christ and the achievement of His calling. He died for the sins of the world, and He resurrected, thus opening the door of the new creation for us to live new forever.

Jesus broke into the world of sinners, bypassing the strict old ways that keep the sacred away form the unholy and He touched them with His grace, love and compassion. This new way of life was the calling of Jesus for all of us. The old had to be abandoned forever, and the followers of Christ must never return to the old.

In Luke 5: 36-39 we read, “36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.”

The new covenant brought forgiveness walking. His name is Jesus! We must walk the same way among the broken of the world. When we do, we will upset the religious and the old system. That’s okay, the old has passed. Go and walk anew!

people

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.