Known By Our Love

“Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful” (Colossians 3:12:15, The Voice).

I was supremely convicted tonight by a question the Bible study teacher asked us: If you say you love God, and don’t love the people He died for, do you really love God?

I think every one of us, if we’re honest, can point to a person or a group that they have trouble loving. But when I read the words of Jesus, He doesn’t give us suggestions or advice about what to do with people who are hard to love. He flat out says, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”

One of the hallmark characteristics of Abba’s children is that they are known for putting compassion above politics and preferences. They know that Jesus died for every kind of person and people group, so they choose to love them all– gay, bisexual, transgender, straight, Muslim, Hindu, Democrat, Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Black Lives Matter people, white supremacists, socialists, Trump supporters, headbangers, country music fans . . . the list goes on and on.

Jesus died for all of them. God desires for all of them to come to salvation. The best litmus test for the genuineness of our faith isn’t as much perfect doctrine or practices as it is compassion for our enemies and what Jesus called the least of these — those who will never be able to repay our kindnesses and generosity.

It helps me personally to remember that Jesus loved me when I was a least of these. Jesus died for me when I was an enemy. This is the kind of love that God calls us to and in Jesus enables us to live out. This is the kind of love that changes everything.

 

Praying vs. Panicking

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One” (Philippians 4:6-7, The Voice).

I don’t know about you, but I have my moments of anxiety as well as anyone else. For me, anxiety tends to take me to a future of what ifs and what might happens, where I envision all sorts of scenarios.

I’ve noticed that my anxious thoughts take me to a future with no God in it. I find it’s just me having to solve all my own problems, and none of my scenarios play out very well. Most of what I dread and fear in the future never comes remotely close to happening, yet that never seems to stop the obsessing when anxiety strikes.

The secret is to take every moment of anxiety and turn it into an occasion for prayer. After all, prayer is really about reminding you and me who’s really in charge. When we give thanks for God’s mercies in the past, we find that we can hold fast to the same God in the future to be as faithful.

And that peace? It really does defy all human understanding. Once you’ve decided that you’re not the ruler of your own life and destiny, you let go trying to control every possible outcome and find that God is more than able to take your place. That’s very freeing.

I was reminded yesterday of the truth that when storms and troubles come, you don’t tell God how big your storm is, you tell your storm how big your God is.

 

 

Further Kairos Takeaways

“Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home. Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.

Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.

Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

Tonight’s guest speaker, Jason Cook, spoke from Luke 10:38-42 about choosing the better way. In this culture where we idolize busyness and being on the go non-stop, we look to Martha as having chosen rightly.

Yet Jesus sees Mary doing nothing but sitting at His feet and listening as having chosen the better way. Instead of doing a million things for Jesus, she’s chosen to be with Jesus.

It’s very easy to get so caught up in serving Jesus that we forget to spend time with Him. Christianity can become so much about activities and rituals that  we forget what it’s really all about.

Jesus is saying two words that have almost become anathema in this day and age– SLOW DOWN. Stop and listen. Rest in My presence and learn from Me.

Sometimes, we need to stop talking at God, running down our laundry lists of requests and petitions, be still and listen.

There’s a time for asking, but there’s also a time for adoration. There’s the command to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking, but there’s also the command to be still.

Maybe today we can choose the better way, if only for a few moments, to hear the voice of Jesus over all the other voices clamoring for our attention.

 

Listen

“Listen, Israel! The Eternal is our True God—He alone. You should love Him, your True God, with all your heart and soul, with every ounce of your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, The Voice).

I heard something today that I’d heard before, but it was worth the repeat. I can’t claim any originality in what follows.

The first and greatest commandment that Jesus embraced and taught to His followers is to listen. Not merely take in sound via your ear canals but to actually listen with the intent to comprehend and obey what you hear.

Jesus is saying that the utmost way we show love to God is by listening to Him. Repeatedly, Jesus says, “For those who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, “Pay attention, because this is something you really need to know.”

The greatest way you can show love for someone else isn’t by sacrificial acts of service or by words of affirmation and affection. It’s by listening to them.

I confess that most of the time I’m not the best listener. I can be engaged in a conversation and walk away and not remember the bulk of what the other person said five minutes later. I oftentimes am listening to respond and not to comprehend.

The culture doesn’t encourage listening. It’s more about making your own voice heard and talking over those who don’t share your views and opinions. The art of dialogue is becoming a lost art.

But you gain authority to speak by listening to understand. Above all, you gain wisdom by being attentive to the voice of God and constantly listening to what He’s saying.

“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen” (Margaret J. Wheatley).

Hurry Up and Slow Down

“Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer).

I attended my church’s annual Maundy Thursday service. As usual, it was a small and quiet affair with only the music from a string quartet to break the silence. There was no preaching, no singing, but only the taking of the elements.

My prayer this year is to not rush through another Easter season. These days, my life already goes by at breakneck speed. I certainly don’t want to hurry it up any further.

So I’m doing my best to savor this season and not let any of its rich meaning be lost. I want to remember how Jesus, sharing God’s very nature, made Himself nothing and took on the form of a slave, becoming obedient even to the point of death.

I remember how Jesus was silent in the face of false accusations against Him. He did not open His mouth to defend Himself, even though He was innocent, choosing the way of crucifixion and death so that I the guilty may go free and be declared innocent in the eyes of God.

Let me take it all in and not lose a single iota of it. Let not one crumb of bread or drop of wine be lost. I want to hurry up and slow down.

“He orchestrated this: the Anointed One, who had never experienced sin, became sin for us so that in Him we might embody the very righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, THE VOICE).

 

 

 

Covered by Blood

“Choose a one-year-old male that is intact and free of blemishes; you can take it from the sheep or the goats. Keep this chosen lamb safe until the fourteenth day of the month, then the entire community of Israel will slaughter their lambs together at twilight. They are to take some of its blood and smear it across the top and down the two sides of the doorframe of the houses where they plan to eat” (Exodus 12:5-7, The Voice).

Blood is not a topic for polite dinner conversation. Or any polite conversation. Or any conversation for that matter. Some people get queasy at the sight or even the mention of it.

Lately, any songs about the blood are becoming more and more taboo at many churches. People like to believe that we’re generally not that bad and that our mistakes aren’t that serious.

Any time that I sing about or hear about the blood of Jesus, it’s a stark reminder of the seriousness of my own sin. I’m reminded again that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not that I’m okay, you’re okay, so let’s all try to be better people in the future.

The gospel is that we all have sinned and missed God’s mark. That sin always comes at a cost. Romans 3:23 say “The payoff for a life of sin is death.” There’s no loophole or any other way around that. Sin earns spiritual death now and physical death later.

But read the rest of the verse– “but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.”

Easter is all about how Jesus took the punishment and death that we deserved because of our sin, giving us the free gift of eternal life to all those who repent of their sins and place their faith in the final and finished work of Jesus.

I may not like the sight of blood or always like to talk about it, but I’m thankful for the blood that Jesus shed, not sparingly but freely, for my sake and for the sake of all of us who have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

Here’s how to know for certain if you belong to Jesus:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/salvation-through-christ-a-matter-of-faith.html

 

It’s Not All Good

“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” (Romans 8:28, The Voice).

The popular rendition of this verse is that in God all things work together for good. Note that it does not say that all things are good but that all things work for good.

In other words, it’s not all good.

All you have to do is watch the news, read the newspaper, or catch the headlines on any news website to know that. Creation is beautiful but broken, due to that original sin that messed everything up.

It’s not all good when racism still exists and people are looked down upon as being less than for skin color, ethnicity, or gender.

It’s not all good when schools aren’t a safe place to learn, as too many students have died from gun violence.

It’s not all good when parents bury their children, when women want desperately to have children but can’t, and when someone else gets a cancer diagnosis.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not “I’m okay, you’re okay.” It’s not an “It’s all good.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ says that God can take anything, even the worst kinds of evil, and work it into something good and beautiful.

The gospel says that one day, all will be made right and there will be no more pain or tears.

So no, it’s not currently all good, but the cross proves that God can take even the very worst and redeem it.

That’s all good.

 

No One Should Be Left Out

“Praise the Eternal!
Praise the True God inside His temple.
    Praise Him beneath massive skies, under moonlit stars and rising sun.
Praise Him for His powerful acts, redeeming His people.
    Praise Him for His greatness that surpasses our time and understanding.

Praise Him with the blast of trumpets high into the heavens,
    and praise Him with harps and lyres
    and the rhythm of the tambourines skillfully played by those who love and fear the Eternal.
Praise Him with singing and dancing;
    praise Him with flutes and strings of all kinds!
Praise Him with crashing cymbals,
    loud clashing cymbals!
No one should be left out;
    Let every man and every beast—
    every creature that has the breath of the Lord—praise the Eternal!
Praise the Eternal!” (Psalm 150:1-6, The Voice).

As I read the words to this particular Psalm, I was reminded of something that John Piper wrote. He said that worship is the ultimate purpose of the Church. Missions, he said, exists because there are places where worship does not. Missions exists because there are people who still have not heard of God’s saving power in Jesus and of His worth and value and of His redeeming love.

Missions will not always exist. The Bible says that one day there will be a multitude of people from every ethnicity and race and language gathered around the throne of God and that the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the seas.

Until then, we have the Great Commission, so that no one is left out of the opportunity of an eternity with God.

 

A Fitting End

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out all right” (Billy Graham).

I read today where Billy Graham will be buried in a simple pinewood casket made by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. I find that very fitting for a man who saw himself as a humble Southern Baptist preacher blessed to be able to present the Gospel to so many over a long and faithful life.

I think Billy Graham himself would say that it’s only his mortal shell that’s being put six feet deep in the ground. He is face to face with Jesus, hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He is reunited with his wife Ruth. He is home.

I think he’s finding out how true those words he spoke so long ago are. If you’ve read the last page of the Bible, then you know that it’s truly going to be all right.

In case you haven’t gotten to the end of the Bible, spoiler alert– here’s how it ends.

“The Spirit and the Bride: Come.

And let everyone who hears these words say, ‘Come.’

And let those who thirst come.
All who desire to drink, let them take and drink freely from the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, The Voice).

I believe Billy Graham would want his funeral to be one more opportunity for people to be able to respond to a Gospel invitation. He would want his death to result in more people coming to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Maybe you can be one of those who will join Billy Graham in heaven.

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/salvation-through-christ-a-matter-of-faith.html

 

 

No Plan B

“The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God. Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind.  Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused” (James 1:6-9, The Voice).

Tonight at the Room in the Inn Bible study, the teacher spoke from James 1 about what it means to be double-minded when it comes to prayer.

It occurred to me that praying in faith with no doubts (see James 1:6) is to pray with no plan B in mind, knowing that God hears your heart more than He hears your words, especially when words won’t come.

Maybe you’ve had a plan B in the past. You pray the words, but you have a backup plan just in case God doesn’t come through. You hedge your bets, so to speak, and don’t fully trust in God.

I wonder how many of our prayers go unanswered because they aren’t really prayers at all. They’re more like wishful thinking while we implement our own plans and rule our own lives — or at least we have the illusion that we do.

Have you ever stepped out in faith and prayed boldly in such a way that if God doesn’t come through, what you’re doing or hoping for will fail spectacularly? It’s a lot like stepping out on a high wire with no safety net below. It’s scary but that kind of faith never goes unrewarded.

Pray big and pray boldly, knowing that it’s not a great faith in God that brings about answers to prayers but faith in a great God who always keeps His promises to His people.