I for one am so thankful that the election commercials are OVER!!!
We at times act as if people who vote different than us are “others”. In reality those others are cousins, brothers, sisters, and friends to us. People who believe in God are Democrats. People who believe in God are Republicans. People who believe in God are Independents. People who believe in God are conservative. People who believe in God are liberal.
What the heck does that mean for us?
There are core truths that we as Christians believe in...how we believe we get there may be different as far as politics go.
We need to believe that Jesus love is available for all. That really is what John 3:16 is telling us, right? For God so loved the WORLD...world includes everyone. Jesus love is for young and old. Jesus love is for people of all colors and regions. Jesus love is for Democrat and Republican (and all the other groups too).
We need to believe that all people are worthy of hearing the gospel. We are each wired differently. What that means is that we will have a different way of presenting the gospel. For me it might be loving on people so they can see Jesus love through mine. For someone else it might be sharing God’s Word with others by leading a small group or even just with the people in your own home. For still others it will be volunteering to help others in numerous different ways.
Who we elect is so important yet, not as important as how we live. So how are you living? Are you living shut in your home in a corner declaring that the only people that are yours are REpublicans or Democrats????
First we have to live out Titus 3:1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,” We need to be respectful of those in authority even when we are on opposite sides. We all have to do what we were created to do as I talked about above. We this in Ephesians 2:8-10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Finally, we need to believe in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I believe which means I choose to love. I want to do the next loving thing no matter where you life, what your political party, social standing, or more.
There is always that one. The one that says that all we do is wrong. The one that says things that hurt your feelings. The one who you work with and drives you crazy. The one that is part of you immediate family. The one that you get to spend the holidays with and you are dreading it! THAT ONE! I have had “the one” or more than “the one” in my life!
Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the LORD.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
I was challenged years ago to pray for those that hurt you, those that you do not like, those that betray you… basically “the one’s” in my world. I began praying very maturely….with little to NO meaning. Mature right? I prayed and at that point I did not have a change because at that point I still did not like them, forgive them, etc. I had work to do. When I say I, I mean it. I had to get over myself and the issues. I had the right to be angry about things but I did not have the right to hold onto that anger or give it a foothold in my life. At this point this is exactly what I was doing!
But I prayed without ceasing...it didn’t get better...it got worse. I had more things to be praying about. Yet, God did a work in me. I began to want great things for my “one”. I began to not dread seeing them. I began to change. Not the situation. Not the ONE in my life, me! I was no longer angry. I no longer wanted to scream...stop it. The praying changed me. Never healed our relationship. At times I still find my one difficult to this day...a sign that God and I need to work some more.
I have learned what ugly love looks like...loving when you just do not want to. I could love as the earthly principles reveal to me
“love only those that love you”. John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let’s love messily...the one and other ones as Jesus loves us! It will not always be pretty or easy or fun but in the end you will feel better living as Jesus commands.
Making Room to Grow
“Other seeds fell among thorns that grew
up and choked out the tender plants.”
Jesus, Matthew 13:7 NLT
Several years ago, while Debi and I were serving at Cromwell UMC, we planted marigolds along both sides of the sidewalk leading from the street to our front porch. I have always liked marigolds because they are bright yellow and being a colorblind guy I can easily distinguish the color of marigolds. (They also seem to be a pretty hardy flower.)
This particular year after planting the marigolds, Deb and I didn’t do much with them for a few weeks and then we noticed that they really weren’t growing like we thought they should. Upon closer examination we noticed that the grass from the yard had encroached on the area in which we had planted the marigolds. The grass was actually threatening to take over the flower beds where the marigolds were planted.
Now there is nothing wrong with grass when it is in the yard but we didn’t want it to take over the flower beds. So, Deb and I went to work one day pulling up the grass in the flower beds. It took some work and some time but when we finished the flower beds looked a lot better.
Also, something happened that I hadn’t realized would take place. (Confession: I really am not much of a gardener.) The marigolds began to spread out over the flower bed and grow like never before. What we had done was that by weeding the flower beds alongside the sidewalk we had made room for the marigolds to grow.
Jesus, in the parable of the Sower & the Seed, reminds us that there are things in life that can choke out the spiritual growth that God intends for us. Jesus said it this way when He explained the parable to his disciples…
“The seed sown among weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart, and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit.” Jesus, Matthew 13:22 TPT
So here is a question for you. What do you need to weed out of your life in order to grow into the person God wants you to be? It may be something that is bad, that is destructive to you and those around you. It maybe something not bad in and of itself (like the grass in the marigolds) but it is taking too much of your focus away from God and the Kingdom.
God’s great goal in our lives is that we grow in our relationship with Jesus and our knowing how to walk in His ways. In order see God’s goal for us realized we do need to make room to grow. The Master Gardener ((Father God) can and will make clear to us what needs to be weeded out or pruned back in order for us to grow.
What is true of us as individuals is also true corporately. God’s intention is for us to grow together as a church. The problem is that we try to do so much and our focus is so broad that we can miss the truly important. As a church, we can fail to make room to grow.
May all of us be making room to grow! May this be the best growing season we have ever experienced in knowing Jesus more and more and learning to walk in His ways!
In my mind one of the most powerful chapters in all of Scripture is Romans 8. Here are a few of my favorite verses from this chapter…
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” v. 1-2
“So, you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’”
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example,
we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the
Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be
expressed in words.” v.26
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” v. 28
In the last part of chapter 8 in the New Living Translation the phrase “...for us” appears several times. I noticed this the other day while having my devotions. Here are the verses…
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” v.31
“Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up
for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” v. 32
“…for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” v. 35
Know this today and remember this God is for us!!! God is for you!!! The story of Jesus shows that God is for us, not against us!
Sisters and brothers, if God is for us what does it matter who is against us! Because God is for us, may each of us live wholeheartedly and passionately for Him!
It is the time of year when the sun shines less, when the schedule is crazy, and it seems like the end of the year has so many loose ends that we might not have any time to breathe. So, what is it that I recommend for you to do? Increase your rest in the Lord. It is exactly when life is the craziest that we need to cling to the Lord.
God created us for to recharge. He gives us an example of this when He rested after creation. Genesis 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Now, like me you might be thinking but He rested after the works was done. This is true.
In the Jewish culture life adheres to this importance of Sabbath. They enjoy a meal with family and/or friends. They stop knowing the work will be there in 24hrs. It is not that their work may be all done but this Sabbath that the Lord has called us to is important for our mind, body, and soul.
Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
So, I can hear some of you right now, “how in the world can I take a day when we are 13 days away from celebrating with family and friends?” Well, for starters if you run like mad for the finish line and never take a breath when you finally sit down you will be so exhausted that you will not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. When I take time with the Lord in the morning, my day always is more productive. I cannot explain it other than I believe when we honor God, God makes things that seem impossible possible.
So, in the next few days make daily time for the Lord. Start with reading, listening, and prayers. Take time to just rest. When we do not rest our bodies can get wore down and that is when we get sick, suffer from fatigue, and then hit a wall unable to accomplish anything.
Rest is something that Jesus himself did here on earth.
When we look at his life we notice that He would turn to rest after big events or prior to them. Jesus is resting by the well when He has an important conversation with another person, rest does not mean that you will not still have conversation or encounters with others. Jesus was resting on the boat before he told the strom to be calm.
Exodus 34:21 You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.
REST this holiday season and into 2019!
I have a friend who had the MOST amazing smile. She really lit up pictures, rooms, and the lives of those around her. Unfortunately, her smile was hiding some pain. I think we would be surprised at how much pain there is in the world. Brokenness.
Some brokenness comes from things thrust upon us. Examples of that can be illnesses that are chronic, someone ending a relationship with us that we didn’t see coming, a loved one dying, the list goes on. Some brokenness is way beyond our control like that illness, depression, and more. Some of us have trauma, post traumatic stress disorder. WE do not know the pain that someone is carrying around with them.
What would the world look like if we noticed people around us? By that I mean really noticed. Jesus called us to love one another. He did not put parameters on the love. Love those that look like you, nope he did not say that. Love those that are easy to love, Jesus loved several difficult people. Love those that believe everything you believe, Jesus ate with others that believed not as he.
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So we have conversations. Talk with our neighbor, they might need a friend. Call a friend we have not spoken to for a long time, they may need usand we will not know if we do not pick up the phone. Do not assume the person that is short with us is not going through something right now.
Brokenness does not have to be fatal. God uses the most broken to do amazing things. That fact makes me think of Japanese broken pots. Follow me for a second here. In this world where we throw things away I have been drawn into centuries old pottery repair. Melted gold us used to repair breaks. Many times making it more beautiful than before.
So, if we love people then we need to let them know that God sees our brokenness and just like these golden Japanese pots can make our brokenness be our beauty. See then our smiles will be from our hearts and not just on our faces. Then God can help us share with others the good news that He loves us, just where we are. Yet, He loves us so much that He sent His son to show us a better way. There is a better way ….let’s love one another. Share the good news. Tell people about Jesus so their brokenness can be fixed by the golden love of the Father.