“Love Without Hypocrisy!”

Jesus loved us with a sincere love.  Everything He did, right down to dying on the cross as a substitute for our wrongs, was motivated by love, real love.

Paul commanded, “Let love be without hypocrisy,” (Rom. 12:9; NKJV).  The church was to model Christ in the way that they loved people.  They are to have the purest and most sincere love that would compel people to want to know more about Christ.  They are to be pillars of love that the lost, broken and hurt can lean on and find strength.

One thing people can readily pick up on is fakeness.  Those that come to us and come to our buildings are looking for something real.  They have had enough of the phony stuff.  They have dealt with the pretenders of the world and they are not looking for that in us.  They are looking for something real.  They are looking for something pure.  They are looking for somebody to look at them as Christ would and feel nothing but love and compassion for them.

How many times has the Bible described Jesus as being “moved with compassion?”  That’s what sincere love does; it moves the heart.  It allows one to look beyond what they see to have genuine concern for others.  This is what people are looking for.  This is what the church should be displaying.  The love of Christ is our greatest asset in drawing people to salvation.  After all, wasn’t it God who told Jeremiah, “With lovingkindness have I drawn thee,” (Jer. 31:3; KJV)?

Real love draws people.  Fake love pushes them away.  If we truly want to be like Christ then love on people sincerely.  Don’t give them what the world is already giving them; fake love.  Give them something genuine.  Give them something real.  Give them something that will bring them closer to God.  Give them real love!

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“Keep Your Eyes on Jesus!”

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“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me,” Matthew 14:30

There was a point in Matthew 14 where the disciples were not sure if the image they were seeing was actually the Lord. Finding out that it was Him, in a move of boldness, Peter requested, “Bid me come unto thee on the water,” (vs. 28).  Jesus’ response – “Come!” (vs.29).

How difficult, had we not known this familiar story, would it have been for us to get out of that boat and venture to do the impossible?  I mean – really?!  People are not known for walking on water, which is one of the reasons, they originally thought Jesus was a spirit (vs. 26).  Watching Jesus take command over what normally cannot be subdued, moved something inside of Peter to do what Jesus did.

What would that have been like?  Awesome, indeed!  I love to swim so the idea of being able to physically walk on water would make me downright giddy.  Another thing that appeals to me about this story is the courage to at least try.  To see what it was like to break away from the normal and to do something extraordinary.

Extraordinary living!  Isn’t that what being in Christ is all about?  It’s a whole lot of faith mixed with a whole lot of stepping out that produces the results of one who has chosen to see and do life differently than those around him.  The rest stayed in the boat.  They were content with the status quo.  But, Peter felt a special draw to see what it was like to step out of the boat – to see what it was like to stand where Jesus stood.

As Peter found out, the road to extraordinary living can get rough.  A lot of stuff can and will rise up against us as those waves did, and seek to toss about our faith.  What Peter “saw” side-tracked him from getting to where Jesus was.  The truth of Peter’s experience in this story unfolds the same way for many of us.  If only the sea would be calm then we would be alright.  If only the waves of adversity would stop trying to slam you, then would you be able to walk on water, too.

Jesus never promised calm seas all the time.  But, what He did promise was, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).  It is hard to try to live an extraordinary life when one takes their eyes off of Jesus and what He promised.  It’s one thing to recognize Jesus, but then we have the individual responsibility to stay focused on Him.  No matter what the seas are doing in our life, He promised to be there with us.  Always!

“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  In essence, He was stating that He was right there with Peter, so why did Peter take his eyes off of Jesus?

Sinking in life doesn’t always happen that fast.  Little by little one begins to predominantly focus on the problems of life instead of the Life Preserver, who promised to be there for you.  God wants us to step out into extraordinary living.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus we can do the impossible.  We can walk on water, too!  He is with you, always!

“Take A Stand Against Fear!”

 

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“. . .And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law:
and if I perish, I perish,” Esther 4:16, KJV

There are a lot of things that act like blockades in our lives, but fear by far has to be one of the hardest to overcome. Fear can render useless the one who entertains it because unlike physical limitations, fear messes with the mind. It changes one’s perspective on how they view the world, the people around them and their own lives.

Fear acts like a photographer. It snaps a picture and develops it in the dark recesses of your mind. When the picture is finished being developed it comes out for you to view a new reality, whether it’s true or not. Fear is not based on truth but it wants you to believe in the image it presents to you more than God. That’s why many of us will never tread the courts of the king as Esther did. We can become so focused on that false image (the things that we see that make us afraid) that we fail to step out with courage.

The Bible tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1, KJV). Going against fear takes faith. Faith doesn’t concentrate on what is visible to the naked eye. Faith concentrates on the truth of God’s promises. And His promises declare, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Is. 41:10, KJV).

That’s what faith sees!

With Queen Esther’s physical eyes the picture she saw wasn’t pleasant. What she saw was her beloved uncle Mordecai’s life was in danger, (Esther 5:14). What she saw was hatred and an evil desire for her people to be destroyed, (Esther 3:8-9). What she saw was the anguish of her people, grieving her also, (Esther 4:3-4). What she saw was a law that could take her life, (Esther 4:11).

A decision had to be made. Esther could look at the circumstances and let the fear of those images stop her from doing what’s right. Or, she could take a stand against the fear that assailed her and go for it, debunking that old image to see something new.

With great resolve and commitment she said, “If I perish, I perish.” She took a stand against the fearful, stepping out into the unknown, not sure if she would find favor with the king. Her people needed her to be brave. Her uncle needed her to be unbending in her determination. She needed to step up to the plate “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14, KJV).

In what area of your life do you need more courage? Is there something you are dealing with that is extremely hard, yet you want to be determined to see it through? It takes a resolve such as Queen Esther possessed to stand against the fear of what you see so that you too can walk the King’s court in victory!

We Have Blessed Assurance

 

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“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass,” Joshua 21:45

The waiting – sometimes excruciating. The battles – hard fought and horrendous. The enemies – many. The hopes and dreams of a people once enslaved – building. The promise – within sight. Victory – obtained. Possession – now.

The journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land had not been a road easily traveled. Through it all, they struggled with discouragement and wrestled with obedience. Battles ensued, some won and some lost. Crossing the Red Sea; crossing the Jordan. Walls were brought down at Jericho and lives fled at Ai. The sun stood still during the fight and kings were conquered. Now, they are at the promise but the road there was not easy.

The children of Israel and their excursion to the Promised Land, their struggles with the flesh and their attitudes and holding onto hope while waiting for obtaining of the promise reminds me of our Christian journey. The promise is before us but the road is not paved with ease and comfort as some would have you believe. The path we walk takes effort, sometimes great effort. The trials we face are often difficult. But the faith we hold onto is assured.

If life never threw you any curve balls then I wonder if you were in the game at all. What does that mean? There are a lot of messages that we hear that tickle the ears making the hearer believe that they will never suffer hardship on this Christian journey. It leaves the hearer bewildered when they do face difficulties. They are taken aback when struggles come to their home. They believed they would coast on through without any road closures or stumbling blocks. Discouraged, many throw their hands up in defeat before they obtain the promise.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, KJV). You see, we have an assurance of a great promise at the end of our journey, but Jesus was very real and upfront to let us know that road won’t always be easy. Jesus led no one into a false sense of security that they would never have to experience any adverse circumstances. He said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.”

Before reaching the Promised Land and even to the point of laying hold of the promise, the children of Israel had to fight their way through. But the Bible tells us, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” They eventually were able to fully experience everything their souls had been longing for on that journey. The sights, the smell and the taste of victory were theirs for their enjoyment. They had the good thing that God had promised.

I write words of encouragement in case you are in a curveball state; in case you have been sidetracked by unexpected discouragement. Still press forth in the journey. Don’t give in at the sight of struggles. Be determined in the forward march. Not a word of God’s promises will fail for you either. In fact, Psalm 84:11 says, “For the LORD is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” (KJV).

Keep your head above water and float on the promises of God who said, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you,” (Deut. 31:6, NKJV). I can’t promise you million dollars or that you will never spend nights crying over life, but I can promise that Jesus will be with you even to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20, KJV.

We have the blessed assurance of every promise that God has bestowed upon us. When adversity comes, know that you are not the only one going through it. Sometimes the journey will be harder than we like it to be, yet the assurance remains the same. In the end, if we hold on to our faith despite what our eyes are seeing right now, the promise is ours. “All came to pass,” for the children of Israel and it will for us too. “Be of good cheer,” Jesus said. “I have overcome the world!”

“Don’t Touch That!”

Do Not Touch Sign clip art

Photo Credit: Clker.com

“. . . Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” Philippians 3:13, KJV

When God created babies He created some of the most fascinating little creatures. They keep us entranced as we watch them toddle about. We are amused when they let go of the coffee table to take those first “Frankenstein” like steps. When you do the airplane to go them to eat, their little giggle and the banging on the highchair melts your heart. When they don’t feel well and the bottom lip begins to pout we race to bring them comfort. Or, when they sleep at night you can almost see an angelic glow of innocence radiating about them.

Yes, sir. They are quite fascinating, especially when it comes to dealing with their propensity for touching everything. This is the part that gets the parents hearts racing. We find ourselves continually saying, what seems to be fifty million times, “Don’t Touch That!”

Our hearts become frantic because often the thing they want to touch is very harmful to them. “Don’t touch that stove!” We know it’s hot and that they could get burned. “Don’t touch the cat the wrong way!” We know they could get scratched. “Don’t touch the plug!” They could get shocked. And, my favorite comes when we find them chewing on something that we didn’t give them and we yell, “What did you touch now!”

We do all that we can as parents to protect our children to see them grow up to be happy, healthy and successful. It’s a lot of our guidance through life that will see that they get there. But, it usually starts early on with a good, healthy dose of, “Don’t Touch That!”

Do you ever feel that God sometimes wants to yell down at us, “Don’t touch that?” I do. Especially when it comes to dealing with our past hurt, pains and regrets.

Our lives can go on peachy-keen and fine as rainbows when all of a sudden something triggers a twinge of regret. Then, we begin to ponder that regret until we are reliving the painful past. We let the guilt resurface when the Bible says, “He will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sin into the depths of the sea, “ (Micah 7:19, KJV). Yet, we sometimes try to resuscitate it and bringing it back to life.

God said, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,” (Isaiah 43:25, KJV). God puts them in a place where He doesn’t remember them; where He doesn’t acknowledge them anymore. But, when we feel that little niggle of doubt we start rehashing the past, touching it and not leaving it alone.

Go figure?

The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about past regrets. (After all, he did seek to imprison and kill those who claimed Christ until Jesus knocked him off his beast). He also knew that it was behind him now. He doesn’t live back there anymore and to continually go back to it would stunt his future growth.

With a resolve to teach others this important truth he penned the words, “Forgetting those things which are behind.”

It’s time to leave it alone. Stop touching it! Put it down and don’t pick it up again! Stop pondering it! Stop reliving it! It’s in the past!

Now is the time to start, “reaching forth unto those things which are before.” It’s time to start looking forward to where God is taking you, not where you have been! Who doesn’t want something better to look forward to?

Babies are still learning not to touch everything they see. I think it’s time to take our cue from them. Things in the past are harmful to us if we continually fiddle with it. Leave it alone and stop touching it!

Make it a great day today. Start looking ahead instead of behind and see where God can take you!

 

“The Lord is in His Holy Temple!”

“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him,” Habakkuk 2:20

Through the many tragedies that unfold in this life and experiencing the unrest of wars and what appears to be the advancement of evil, we are left with the assurance that God is still in control.  Not only is He still in control, but He remains in His proper seat of authority, ruling in His holy temple.

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around this concept when all we see is the terrible and the detestable happening in the land.  When our eyes witness children being torn and broken; and mothers left without any hope, it’s hard to view the world through another possibility.  When we see fathers in despair, feeling helpless to lead and feed his family.  When we see evil trying to claw its way to the top, we are reminded, He is there, never to be moved or usurped; never to be replaced or shaken from His seat of power and supremacy.

Oh, we watch the world as men set the idols of their hearts up.  We watch as we see they deepen their dependency on the things that will never satisfy the hungering soul.  Through it all, we look to His Majesty.  The King is on the throne.  O earth, be still before Him and honor His presence.

This is a comfort to the soul who can’t find comfort anywhere else.  Is this not a blessed place to be?  For if one found comfort among the false and depraved then would they not also think as other men?  Take comfort, O soul, in your God who is always present.  The head of all principality and power still bears the crown obtained for the salvation and deliverance of mankind.  He that holds that holy scepter, and Himself is the Scepter that rises out of Israel (Num. 24:17), remains in control, worthy of your trust and honor.

O earth, “Be silence before Him.”  O false ways, your arrogance will one day bow before Him and you’ll not be able to utter a word against His rule.  “The LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment,” (Ps. 9:7).

Therefore, be at peace, he that trusts in the rule of his sovereign King.  Allow your soul this holy rest, “The LORD is King forever and ever…,” (Ps. 10:16a).  And for all the rest, hush and quiet your ways before Him before it’s too late, for “the heathen are perished out of his land,” (Ps. 10:16b).  But, “the LORD is in His holy temple,” forever to reign.

“The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all,” Psalm 103:19

“Prosperity Belongs to God”

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“The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build,”
Nehemiah 2:20

You have felt that burden in your heart or that niggling of the mind.  The pull or the call to step out in faith to take on a new project, yet the enemy has thrown disturbing thoughts your way thinking to frustrate what God is pulling you to do.

Nehemiah felt such a burden from God.  He received word that the people in Jerusalem were in distress and the walls were broken and the gates burned, (Neh. 1:3).  What could he possibly do all the way in Shushan?  The Bible tells us he fasted and prayed and confessed the wrongs of his people before God, (Neh. 1:4).  Then, God gave an opportunity for King Artaxerxes to take notice of his plight and support the project that had burdened his heart.

Arriving in the area of Jerusalem with letters from the king should have made things easy for Nehemiah.  But, the plain and simple truth is there are those who don’t want to see God’s people blessed.  There are those who don’t want to see God’s people prosper and favored.  This is what Nehemiah faced.  Nehemiah 2:10 tells us this of his enemies, “They were deeply disturbed that a man came to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.”

As soon as the work began and they took steps toward the goal of their heart, their enemies laughed at them and despised them and put accusations against them, (Neh. 2:19).  But, Nehemiah’s response was one of total faith and reliance upon God.  He said, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build,” (Neh. 2:20).

Know this, anytime God lays a burden on your heart to do something for Him, there will always be enemies that try to stop the plan of God in you.  Sometimes it could even be just our own doubts and insecurities about our own ability to get the job done.  But, if God called you to it, He will see you through it.  Prosperity belongs to God!  All He has ever asked us to do is to step out in faith and do the work and depend on Him to increase it and cause it to grow.  No human on this earth has any say so about what God is doing in your life!

Be blessed, my friends, as you move where God is leading you!