While I was listening to Jack Graham this morning on the radio, he said something that I loved and feel many of us need to hear, Christianity is not immunity. Think about that for a moment, do we believe that because we have put our faith in Jesus that our lives are now going to be easy and that everything we want is going to quickly fall into place? No, really, think about it. How often have we gotten frustrated or angry because what we thought should happen, didn’t. Or what we thought God should do, He didn’t. If we really take a good hard look in scripture, we quickly see that Jesus never promised us a smooth ride. In fact, He offered up the opposite. And in the midst of it, He calls us to be at peace, without anxiety, full of hope and joy.
Paul tells us, ” You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-4
Consider it joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.
Being a Christian does not mean our lives will be free from troubles, in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Our very existence is in opposition to the world. What we believe the world considers foolish, and we are told throughout scripture is that we will face trials and persecutions, just as Christ did. It is never a matter of if but when. If we follow Christ, we will have a share in His sufferings. Anyone who tells you differently is not sharing truth.
Being a Christian does not mean we are now immune to the disease of this world, the disease of sin and death. It means we are in a constant battle for our lives, and the lives of those around us. What we are told in scripture is that when we face challenges, we don’t face them alone, we don’t need to be anxious, we don’t need to fear the trials and tribulations of this world because God has overcome the world. What does that mean? Well, it means that we’ll experience some pretty awful stuff in this life, but we do it so that we can have an eternity free from suffering as we share in Christ’s inheritance.
My grandmother used to tell me, “the human mind and body can endure just about anything, so long as we can conceive of the end.” We know there is an end, we know the battle is won, we know that we will finally be in the arms of the savior and the suffering will cease. It is that hope, that confidence that allows us to whether the storms of this life.
The particular challenges that you are facing right now, they are hard, they seem overwhelming, you’re wondering how you can make it one more day. Perhaps it’s your health or that of someone you love, perhaps it’s your finances or your job. I don’t know what your trial is, I do know that it is not insurmountable. I do know you are not alone. I do know that God’s promises are true and can be counted on. I do know that you are not facing anything that hundreds or thousands have not faced before you. I do know that if you hold on to Christ, it will not destroy you.
We are not immune to the sin of this world. Jesus blood is more like Teflon. the arrows of this life will fly at us, Jesus blood empowers us to stand firm against those forces and not be destroyed. They don’t have to penetrate who we are in Him.
Christianity is not immunity; Christianity is the rudder that allows us to navigate through the trials of this life until we can securely anchor ourselves in the Kingdom with our savior.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!
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I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.
“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8
When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.
The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6
God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47
What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.
Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.
We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11
Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.
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I was driving to work this morning, on the rare occasion that I was not making multiple school drop stops. I was thinking through my day, and planning some upcoming events, praying and asking God for guidance and discernment. I pulled into my office parking lot about an hour earlier than normal and I got out of my car. To my surprise there was someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag lying on the sidewalk, blocking the door.
Complete transparency, I did not react the way I would have liked. My thoughts were uh oh, what now? They could be dangerous, they could be mean, they could yell at me if I disturb them…I could go around to the other door? Wait, I have to run to the store because I need to get flowers for one of my staff for their birthday. Ok God, I’ll go to the store and if they are still there when I get back, I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.
I went to the store, got the card and the flowers and returned to the office…yup they were still there. OK God, I’ll walk around to the other door and put all my stuff in my office, and come back down. If they are still there I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.
I went to my office and put my things down, and plugged in my computer. I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked down the stairs to the door…yup they were still there. OK God, I get it.
Trying to open the door, there was dead weight. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I panicked, what if they were hurt, or sick or dead. “Excuse me, are you OK?” I Pushed the door a little more, “are you OK?” A man sat up, and began to apologize for being there.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep that long, I’m so sorry it was just so cold last night.” He sat up and began to put on his shoes and continued to apologize. I noticed he didn’t have any socks as he put his shoes on. “Really I’m so sorry I’ll move, I was robbed and I have a job but they took my cell phone, I’m so sorry, really, I’ll go.”
I was so wrecked! “Please don’t be sorry, come inside and get warm the building is now open.”
“Really, thank you, my name is Tony.” He reached up his hand to shake mine, I took it.
Tony is down on his luck, he’d had a rough night and was cold. He just wanted to be warm and my response was fear, excuses and procrastination. I took a few minutes to talk with Tony, who was from Tucson and was coming home from California after his job had ended. He told me that each day since he got back things kept getting worse, the culmination was the previous day when he was robbed, loosing his lifeline to his job when his phone was taken. He was sober, articulate, appreciative and polite. After giving him some food, hot coffee and some money. He went on his way, to his job.
I’m not making any claims to the truth or validity of his story, but to mine. I was praying in the car for discernment on what youth curriculum to use, my parent’s upcoming anniversary party and whether to spend money on a new or used drum set for my son.
Tony slept in the cold, on the sidewalk out in the open, and had no socks. My response was not Jesus’, it was the worlds. As I began writing this, a Micah Tyler song came on. He sings:
How can we claim to be God’s hands and feet if we’re too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone? We pray for God to give us opportunities to reach people, to help in tangible ways, then when it happens we come up with every excuse.
God wouldn’t want me to do something dangerous. Didn’t God send Ananias to Saul, the self proclaimed destroyer of Jesus Disciples? (Acts 9:10-19)?
God wouldn’t ask me to jeopardize my standing at work. God was clear that all we do we should work as if for him not men. (Colossians 3:23)
God wanted me to meet Tony, to help him, but more than that to show me…yet again…that His will, His good and perfect will will never fall short of His glory. God loves all people, and not in an out there, for other people to act on, kind of way. Each and every person is precious to Him, so each and every person MUST be precious to us.
Regardless of what they’ve done, NO ONE is unredeemable! We are Jesus to this world, to every person we meet, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not, if they are rich, poor, clean, dirty, sick, healthy, young or old. That is who we are called to be, period!
The wold is full of Tony’s, full of people who need what we have, it’s time we shared with everyone.
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“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
I was having a conversation this week with a friend and I said something. Something I immediately regret, regret to the point that it actually left a foul taste in my mouth. I couldn’t think of why I said it or where it came from, but there it was…ugliness in all its glory. After asking forgiveness for my words, I spent time thinking and praying about my heart and where that was rooted. I asked God to help me be more mindful of my heart and my words. Since then, I have been more aware of what I say and how I say it. Words have so much power.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
How many times a day do you find yourself in a situation where it almost seems natural to say something ugly? Whether it’s about a person, place or thing… James really stated it best when he said our tongue is a fire. “In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6
It has become so commonplace to speak ill of anything, that we don’t even realize we do it anymore. “That person really annoys me”, “I hate the food there it’s terrible”, “their customer service sucks”, seems harmless enough right? Who are we saying it too? Are we making a statement of our dissatisfaction or a direct judgement? In our culture where we hold so much pride in our freedom of speech, have we gone too far toward mainstreaming hatefulness?
Doing life together means we are all in the same boat. We are all supposed to be rowing together in the same direction with the same goal; celebrating God’s Kingdom here on this world and share His love, forgiveness and freedom with as many people as possible. If that’s true then how important is complaining about customer service or restaurant food you dislike?
This scripture from Ephesians states clearly that we are only to speak words which serve to build up the body and give grace to those who hear. We are to put away ALL bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving as Christ is forgiving.
We have become so consumed with, ‘shooting straight’, ‘being candid’, ‘speaking our mind’, and ‘not holding anything back’, that we have forgotten how to express love, forgiveness, grace and kindness. Did you ever hear Jesus speak an angry word to anyone, call them a name or rebuke them in front of others, No! He came to build up not to tear down.
People are going to be frustrating, we’re not perfect…none of us! We all have good days and bad days and have survived all kinds of experiences. God loves us each equally, with our flaws, where we are. We need to do the same. If we are going to be The Church, we need to behave like it. We need to strive to not speak a word unless it serves to build up the body, edifies people, speaks kindness and shines a light on Jesus, not us.
We are the body, we are Christ’s Church. We are His example to the world, when we are tearing each other down, gossiping, bragging, belittling and being unkind, what kind of example are we setting?
Finding Jesus in everyone, and everything isn’t easy, and there are people out there that are harder to love than others. It doesn’t make them less deserving, less needful or less desirous of our love and kindness. Doing life together means that everyone deserves our best…everyone.
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I know, I know, it sounds a lot like a chicken or egg conversation. Well to be honest, it kind of is. I was struck this week by how many times my children were telling me they loved me. We had a busy week preparing for summer…at least summer temperatures, we live in Arizona. We had to go out and get some warm weather clothing, “I love you mom!” Then it was the sandals, “you are the best mom ever!” Then it was spring cleaning, pulling out all the old stuff; clothes, shoes, toys, making the rooms look like rooms and not junk piles…yup you guessed it, “Mom, I love you so much, I couldn’t have done it without you!”
No this is not a tirade on whether or not my children love me, I know they love me. I have never doubted their love for me, even when they aren’t yelling it at the top of their lungs. While I don’t doubt my children’s genuine love for me, I often think of how they’ve learned to express it, only after a blessing. How do they learn that flow of gratitude? Yes, I do know the answer, they learn it from us. We teach them the ‘please and thank you’ from the time they begin talking. Making sure they give hugs and send thank you notes to grandparents after a gift. We teach our children that gratitude is expressed after a blessing.
God, however doesn’t want us to praise him only after he blesses us, so why do we teach our children that? Ephesians 5:19-20 tells us to, “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father, for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It doesn’t say, “when God give you what you want, then give him praise…it says always giving thanks to God the Father, for everything. Always and everything…big words.
The Psalms says it best, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods”, Psalm 95: 1-2.
If this is the case, as scripture tells us, then why do we seem to primarily express our affection, our love for our Lord after He blesses us? Are we in love with who He is, or with what He provides? Does He bless us because we praise Him or because that is who He is?
Natalie Grant has a song playing now that I absolutely love it says, “Help me want the Healer more than the healing, help me want the Savior more than the saving, help me want the Giver more than the giving. Help me want you Jesus, more than anything.”
Do we love Jesus because he heals, saves and gives or do we love Jesus because he is the Healer, Savior and Giver? Do we love Him because of the gift of grace or because He is the Sovereign Lord of the universe, because He is?
I have found myself lately expressing my gratitude, my love to my savior for no reason at all. He is mighty, glorious, righteous, just, and loving; there is nothing out of his reach or control. His love for me is perfect and mine is imperfect but He loves me with a love that surpasses my understanding or comprehension.
Do I only tell my children I love them when they are good, no. Do I only bless my children when they show me gratitude, no. I love my children because they are my children, I want only good things for them. I want them to experience all the greatness that life has to offer. My God who is goodness personified, loves us infinitely more than I love my children, and wants us to be happy, blessed and have the fullness of his riches. Ephesians 2:6-8, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God…”
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