Let Go of the Baggage – “Things that hold you back.”

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) 

When we as a family prepare to go on a vacation there are usually two types of people in our family.  Type One – the under-packer who just wants to be out the door and in the van in fifteen minutes or less and worry about what we didn’t bring with us later.           Type Two – The over-packer who wants to bring everything from our home along with us on the trip and takes twice as long to get ready to leave.  Also this type two person (who will not be named but I’m married to her) has to clean the house as if we were receiving an inspection from a military grade house inspector with white gloves and all.  

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m the type one person who at times sits impatiently in the van honking the horn as the type-two person (again unnamed but I’m married to her) finishes cleaning the house until it shines and is sparkling clean.  

Truth be told, I am glad that my wife takes great care in our preparations and in the long run, as much as I hate to admit it, She is right.  

There’s another kind of baggage in life though

Sin can weigh us down. 

Make no mistake about it, the old life (before Christ) leads to death.  When we come to Jesus and we accept His gift of salvation we are made into new creations by His blood.  The old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)…but at times we still feel as if we have to keep lugging that baggage around with us.  It weighs us down, causes us difficulty and trouble and yet we still habitually burden ourselves with this unnecessary baggage.  

What is this baggage? 

1) It is the remnants of the old creation –

When Christ saved us, He did so completely yet we find it very difficult to let go of old habits and old sinful ways of living. The Holy Spirit prompts us to unclinch our white knuckled fists which are tightly holding onto these things that we needn’t any more to grasp. In times of trial and stress, these old remnants also rear their ugly heads to cause us strife and further temptation as well.  When we lose our focus on the forward prize of Holiness, which is the image of Christ alive in us, we face the old self again.  When this happens a flood of the old tendencies pours in and once again we find ourselves taking two or three steps backwards in our progress of Holiness. This baggage has been there all along festering and molding in a cold dark corner of our hearts and we’ve been reluctant, even rebellious in our lack of spiritual attempts to deal with it, so, instead we ignore it.    The Holy Spirit knows that this baggage does not belong in our new creation.  He is spurring us, even painfully at times, to let go of it.  Why do we still clutch it ever so tightly?  What good can ever come from its hold on us?  This baggage stands blatantly in our path of real, tangible Spiritual growth and yet we allow it to stunt us.  

Prayer – Dear Lord, allow me to see this baggage in my life today.  Show me that which still blocks my steps to full surrender.  Reveal to me the places that I have yet to let go of.  I do not want these burdens of the old creation to hinder my forward progress of reflecting You.  -Amen.

2) The Baggage can also be our guilt, shame and self-worth.

The old life also has a way of convincing us that we are not good enough to be like Christ.  It will try and convince us that we will never be good enough or smart enough to receive such a reward from God.  This has nothing to do with pride, in fact just the opposite.  When Christ redeems us, the wretched sinner, He does so completely.  When we commit our hearts to Him, He washes us clean.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t face temptation again or that we can not fall, but it does mean that His blood sacrifice can and will cover up our sinful old creations and wash them away.  Our part, within this free will, however, is that we must confront our old harmful choices that we have made.  This is the consequences of sin, we have to face it.  Sometimes in facing it we find ourselves so wrecked by it that we begin to doubt if Christ could truly love us because we have done so much wrong.  This remnant of the old baggage clings to us and tries to convince us of the lie that we are not worth His time and that, perhaps, we were never salvageable through His gift of salvation.  Don’t buy the life.  This isn’t about pride, but it’s about truth.  You matter to God!  He loves YOU!  He wants to remind you that you are His precious child and that you are a son or daughter of the Most High!  Don’t cling to this old baggage, which is a lie.  Let go of it, and embrace this truth of His saving grace – You are His and He would do it all over again if you had been the only human alive!  When you let go of this old baggage and recognize how much it has weighed you down you will begin to see how free you will feel.  

Let go, and find this burden lifted from you!  

Prayer – Dear Lord, remind me again of how much you love me.  Remind me when I struggle with my identity in You that I am worthy because of Your love.  Help to me see myself as You see me, and as I do help me to let go of my grip on this baggage of self-worth. Thank you for your love and for your hand upon my life, lift me up out of this pit of self-degradation and give me a passion to serve and love you with ever fiber of my being.  -Amen.

Get On With It!

 Letting go of the baggage that hinder us is only the first step, now we have to press on.  Jesus is our living example, and this world still needs His example lived out in Holy Christ-following people.  Shine so that others might see Him.  Live as the Holy Spirit leads you to live.  Get up and get on with this new creation…oh and leave your baggage behind!  

 

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?

God specializes in things thought impossible

And He can do what no other power can do.

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Easter Tomb Project & Lesson

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You have all probably seen this project already on Pintrest, and I’m in no way claiming that it’s mine…because it’s not, but I would like to incorporate a teachable lesson to accompany it.  Please find the elements of this project accompanied by scripture passages below free for you to use if you so choose to do so.  This teachable craft can be used for youth programs, women’s ministries, senior adult ministry or even at home with your family.  

Elements & Scripture Discussion: 

1. The Potting Saucer – 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth – Genesis 1:1

Image the saucer for this Easter craft represents (at least to me) the world in which we live.  God created it and we live in a location and placed that was formed by His hands.  We are blessed to live in such a world and should take care of this world as best we can.  Genesis 2:5 –  “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  God still wants us to take care of this world that He has entrusted us with.  

2.  The Potting Soil – 

The potting soil represents you, me and all of creation.

 “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

God created this world for us and He desires to have fellowship with us.  He longs for us to love Him in return and so in this Easter story we recognize that we too play a part in the crucifixion and the resurrection.  Jesus came to die for us because we really and truly matter to Him.  He created us and this Easter story is about our salvation through Christ Jesus.  

 

3. The Gardening Rocks 

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for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” -Romans 3:23

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” -Romans 5:12

The gardening rocks represent sin in this world.  It weighs us down and keeps us bound in our slavery to it.  We cannot save ourselves from its weight, nor can we do enough good works to receive eternal life.  We need help.  We are all fallen, each one of us and because of this Jesus came to set us free and to remove the weight of sin from our lives.  

 

 

 

4. The Three Crosses

 

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With younger children you might want to tie these for the kids before hand.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” -Philippians 2:8

The Cross of Jesus is suffering and death.  But it was suffering and death for a purpose.  Jesus died so that the sins of every person on earth could be forgiven and also that we could be restored in our fellowship with God.  Without the cross and Jesus’ suffering we are still hopelessly lost.  We must look to the cross and Christ on the cross for our source of salvation.  

The bindings of the cross pieces represent (to me) the lashings that Jesus received prior to his crucifixion.  It should also represent for us the truth that we (sinful man) put Him there.  We bound Him to that cross, but He willingly went in place of us.  

A.W. Tozer: “The old cross is a symbol of death. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again in newness of life. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It always stands at the far side of the cross.

5. The Tomb and the Large Rock

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“…an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!” -Bill Gaither
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“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb” Luke 24:2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both the tomb and the large stone (it could be white to represent life or another color) represent Christ’s resurrection.  I’m sure it’s obvious to us all, but it also represents the fact that sin & death could not hold the Son of God!  We can find peace, assurance and hope in this empty tomb!  

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”  “3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” John 20:1-10

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” John 11:25

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”  1 Thessalonians 4:14

6) The Grass seed or sprouts (Plant the grass seed before you place the rocks)

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -John 10:10

The grass seed will grow during the Easter season which will serve to remind us of the eternal life/ new life that Christ brings to us.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3

Each of these verses talks about the new life that only Jesus Christ offers to us.  New life is a free gift to us all if we accept it and believe in Christ and His love for us.  

As we watch this “new life” grow during the season of Easter, may it continue to serve as a remind of God’s love for us and of our deep desire to grow in our faith.  We shouldn’t stop learning about this relationship.  We have also been given the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us in this new life!  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26  The Holy Spirit will show us areas of our lives that we need to still surrender to God and He will continue to work within us, helping us along the way.  

This new life isn’t only about getting into heaven, it is also about  living that eternal life right here on earth so that others might see Christ through us.  When we embrace this new life, we become Christ’s representatives (Light) into the world (which is still lost in darkness).  Be God’s light to others as you bloom and grow!  

 

***Disclaimer:  Again I didn’t invent this craft, I simply adapted it and provided a simple yet effective method for teaching this amazing story of love that God has for all of us!  I am sure you can tweak this and make it your own in order to fit the demographic you wish to do this teaching craft with.  This lesson play is free to use as you see fit! To God be the Glory!****

Why I stopped listening to “Christian” Music

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I probably just offended a few Christians out there, sorry that was not my intent, let me get to the point.  I have a problem with certain types of music that has become exclusive.  By this I mean Christianity isn’t a show in which we sell tickets and make money.  U2 once wrote in one of their songs, “Then they put Jesus in show business, now it’s hard to get in the door.” (If God will Send His Angels, 1997)  Is it hard for outsiders to hear the gospel of Jesus in some of the “Religious” music today?  

I like what Jon Foreman, singer/song writer of ‘Switchfoot’ said when asked if their band was a “Christian” band; “…There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer...”  (http://ctkblog.com/2013/12/05/why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs/

“Christian” music shouldn’t be a label that bands slap on themselves to sell records, it should be a lifestyle no matter if they fill stadiums or play in churches.  I think there’s a misnomer that if you don’t make it big on a secular label one can just “crossover” and produce mediocre tunes and still be successful…I honestly don’t think that mentality is truly an effective source of genuine evangelism. 

1. Get out of the bubble:

 

 

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I applaud musicians who see the world around them as Jon does.  There shouldn’t be a schism in our society that differentiates and divides.  I recognize the need to be “set apart” as Christians, but does that mean that we should also be separated and exclusive in our music too?  Understandably there are certain forms of music that are foul in language and sexual in nature that we should avoid. This isn’t about worship music on Sunday mornings either, this is about how we perceive the world around us and breaking down the walls of an “Us against Them” mentality.  

We can’t build walls around the Christian church, if anything Jesus came to tear down those walls.  Sometimes I get frustrated with the “Christian bubble” affect that Christian music has on people.  You know the old phrase “don’t become so heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good”?  This is exactly what happens, in my opinion, when all that we live and breathe is the Christian radio station in our cars.  This is what happens when our worldview becomes so small that it just includes the four walls of our church and our homes. God has a bigger outlook on His people than just for the purpose of insulating themselves in the bubble of the “Christian world”.  

If we are to be His mouthpiece in the world we have to be willing to step out of our little bubbles and stop looking at “non-Christians” as “Them”…we’re all people who have been created by a mighty God and He loves people and He longs for a restored relationship with ALL people!  His desire is that all will hear of His amazing love.  

2. Don’t Disguise Jesus: 

 

 

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I am not saying we shouldn’t proclaim His name either.  We shouldn’t have to dress up Christ in a disguise in order to fool people into listening to “Christian” music either, and I don’t think that Bands like Switchfoot do this.  Jesus doesn’t need a disguise in order to fit into the lives of any who are lost in this world.  Jesus wasn’t bothered by the social norms and constraints of the Ancient Jewish customs and neither would He be in our day and age.   God doesn’t get stuck in our socially accepted roles and rules, He is above them and He sees how things should be not how things are right now.  Jesus doesn’t need a disguise and will work through the hearts of those who are genuine and real.  He will work In the hearts of those who have a real passion to reach the lost, the poor, the hurting. We can’t box God in and say that He doesn’t love “those” people because He is still seeking and willing to save anyone who needs Him.

 

 

 

3. Dear Musicians, Lay off the cheesy lyrical cliches of “Christianese” 

 

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I am trying not to offend anyone, but there are some annoying Christian lyrics out there being played on the radio today.  For example, “If you don’t know what to say, just say “Jesus”…”  Are you kidding me?  Is that the best we can do?  How is that reaching out to those who have never heard the truths and love of God?  Sorry, my critical side is showing and I’m sure I will receive some feedback on this, but any genre of music should make the attempt to produce quality music and not settle for the (churchy) old, tired cliches.  From an outsider’s perspective it just comes across as cheesy and who wants to listen to something thrown together that doesn’t even come close to the level of quality listeners come to expect in modern music?  

Don’t compromise the message, but also don’t settle for mediocrity either.  In all things we ought to strive for excellence and keep the passion to reach a dying world at the forefront of our mission.   Christ came for the whosoever not the “whatever”.  He still longs for His people to actively engage in relevant evangelism so that the truth of His Word can penetrate hurting hearts, but we can’t rely on tired old cliche’s that no one understands to deliver that message.  

In a nutshell:

 

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 I listen to all kinds of music.  I enjoy many, many genres, and I don’t want to place myself in an unbreakable Christian bubble as I look out into the “outside” world.  We all are called to step out and be available to show His love to anyone we can reach.  We can’t compartmentalize our Church life from our social life…It’s all life and there is a real mission to fulfill in it.  This is more than just music, this is the great commission and we can not afford to waste our time living in an exclusive world while millions die without seeing the real, tangible Christ in our walks of faith and in the words we say and live out loud.  

 

To quote again one of my favorite bands – U2 “There is no them, there’s only Us” (Invisible, 2013)

-Just a thought.  

 

 

***Disclaimer: It’s not that I don’t listen to “music with a message” or Christian music, it’s that I long for a deeper more impacting quality of music in the Christ-following realm that is played on radios. I love the Lord with all my heart and I want to serve Him the best that I can, but I also don’t want to cheapen that relationship by settling for a poor quality of music. Long story short, I’m a music snob…sorry about that!***

For the love of God…

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Definition:   re·lent·less
 
riˈlentləs/
adjective
 
  1. 1.
    oppressively constant; incessant.
    “the relentless heat of the desert”
    synonyms: persistent, continuing, constantcontinualcontinuousnonstopnever-ending, unabating, interminableincessantunceasingendless,

    God’s love for us is relentless.

    Perhaps, even “relentless” isn’t a good enough description of how God loves us.  Yet, perhaps it adequately speaks to the nature of God who never quits on His creation.  Do you remember the story of the prodigal son?  In that parable of Jesus what does the Father do?  Despite the son asking for his inheritance and wishing his father to be dead, the father lets him go.  One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to let a child go and have them make their own choices even if those choices are harmful.  Tough love has the capacity to hurt your heart while you relentlessly pursuit reconciliation and renewal of that lost loved one.  

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    The father waited for his son to come to his senses.  The story is more than just about this lost or prodigal son.  This story is about the relentless kind of love that is embodied in the father.  He waits, and even while his son is still a long way off, the father goes and runs to him.  (Luke 15:20) It was unbecoming of an adult in the culture of Jesus to run anywhere, and this father runs to his undeserving and wayward son.  

    Isn’t that what God the Father has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ?  He relentless love took Jesus to the cross for us. His relentless love brought about a way for us, the undeserving and wayward sinner, to experience right relationship with Him once again.   

    For the love of God – Our Response

    What is our response to this relentless love?  Can we recognize how undeserving we are and how amazing it is to have a God who pursues us like this?  Secondly, if we accept this relentless love through Jesus Christ alone, the next step in the reciprocation of that love is our desire to become like Christ.  By this I mean we ought to recognize that Jesus embodied for us in His living and dying what Holiness in human form looks like.  Thus we are to place our feeble feet in the very footprints of Christ for the salvation of humanity!  Our response to His love will take us to places we would never have wanted to go. (John 21:18)  Perhaps it won’t take us to suffering and death like the Apostle Peter, but His love will propel us to do outrageous things for the cause of Christ!  

    Christ’s relentless love will prompt us to take up our crosses too and follow him!  (Matthew 16:24)  If we truly accept His salvation and grace in our lives, we will not be able to just keep it hidden inside of us, we will want to share that ceaseless love to those who are still lost in the darkness of lovelessness.  

    For the love of God…be bold in your relentless pursuit of others!

    For the love of God…be genuine in your passion to serve Him humbly!

    For the love of God…wrap your arms around the unlovable and show them love like they have never seen before!

    For the love of God…be Holy as He (Jesus Christ) is Holy! 

     

    “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
    His mercies never come to an end,
    They are new every morning
    New every morning
    Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord
    Great is Your faithfulness”
     
    -May all the Glory be to God and that of His Relentless love of You and Me!  

The God who provides…

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“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money,, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost….Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:1,2,6

God, through his prophet Isaiah offers nourishment and life to those who seek Him.  The Hebrew people would understand this concept and remember how God had provided manna from heaven to their ancestors while wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt.  They would also recall how God led them into the promised land and brought them victory at Jericho.  

God provides all that we require to live this life here on earth as His servant.  All that we have to do is seek Him daily and have faith in His unlimited provision.  But His provision doesn’t just stop with His children, He longs so desperately to extend His grace and blessings upon the rest of the world as well.  After all, Jesus came for the whosoever (John 3:16) and if anyone would seek Him they will find the storehouses of God are never ending.  

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33.

Are you thirsty today?  Are you hungry for more in this life?  Is there something lacking in your life and you can’t seem to find out what IT is?  God still calls the righteous and the whosoever to come to Him.  The very first two words of Isaiah 55:1 says; “Come ALL”.  It doesn’t say “Come some of you”, or “Come you VIP’s”…it says “Come ALL”!  

Allow God to replenish your storehouses today.  Allow Him to renew you.  If you’re seeking Him for the first time why don’t you pray this prayer with me: 

PRAYER

How to Pray:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.
Amen.

For additional information on what you just prayed check out this link:  

http://www.billygrahamlibrary.org/PGView.aspx?pid=13

 

 

Perspectives – by Stephen Court

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We have all messed up in various ways; we have all fallen short of the target; we have all disobeyed God. We have all sinned.

Our sins separate us from God and from the abundant life for which He created us.

The Lord Jesus Christ – God in the flesh – came down to earth, lived a perfect life, suffered the consequences we all, by our sinning, deserve, dying on the Cross for our sins. But He came back to life again, conquering sin and death, defeating the devil, ascending to heaven, interceding for us right now, and planning to come back again.

He says each of us, ‘Come, follow Me.” This is both the most spectacular invitation in the history of the world and the most elementary command, coming as it does, from the Creator of the Universe. And our response to this invitation / command will determine our destiny.

Rejection in any form – choosing to continue in our own direction – will lead us to our own destination, hell. Acceptance will bring forgiveness, regeneration, hope, purpose, love, acceptance, and eternal life in heaven.

How do we obey that command? Jesus clarifies, “Repent and believe.” That is, change our minds and our direction, turning from our sins, and trusting and relying on Him.

What does it look like to accept His invitation into His life? It is an amazing adventure in the supernatural as we die to ourselves and our petty little issues and, filled with His Holy Spirit, engage in His mission that runs through the agony of the world.

We are looking to win the world for Jesus.

Interested? —- @StephenCourt and Facebook…

 

 

Bio:

Stephen Court loves Jesus and is fighting as a Salvation Army officer to win the world for Jesus along with his family, comrade soldiers at the Crossroads Corps in Edmonton (Canada) and more than a million other Salvationists worldwide. You can catch him at armybarmyblog.blogspot.ca, StephenCourt (twitter), sacrossroads.com and Scott’s friend list on Facebook.

Tune in tomorrow for another installment of “Perspectives” featuring writer and author Bob Hostetler.

So…a Liberal and a Conservative walk into a church…

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It might sound like the beginning of a good joke spiked with plenty of political jargon and party stereotypes but the truth of the matter is that this is often the case.  Although it is good to recognize what the differences are within political ideologies it is also most helpful to remember if both are Christ-followers the later should be of the utmost importance.  Before and even after our political allegiance must come our relationship with the Almighty.  If we have these priorities backwards (politics first, relationship with Christ second) then we will ultimately face a difficult road ahead which will either lead us to a reshuffling of priorities or taking exit lane on one of them.

County, state or even city governing politics in church is a very tricky subject of which I will not delve too deeply into within this entry, I will leave that for another day.  But is there a place for politics within the church?  Of course there is, but be mindful that God’s divine authority and governance should always precede that of any other political affiliation.

With that being said, do I believe there to be true practicing Christ-followers within both political camps?  Absolutely!  But even within that self-imposed question I find the crux of the issue, there is a division.  There is a line in the sand here that I think begs discussing. Has it ever been God’s desire for His people to be so divided over earthly things including politics?  NO!  Jesus even prayed over and for His disciples (John 17:21) so that “they may be one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Naturally there is a context here, which we must understand.  Jesus was praying for a select group of people as His message would be spread throughout the earth in their unity and mission.  But has that mission ceased since their calling so long ago?  NO!  We are still called by God to fulfill the great commission!  (Matt 28:16-20)

So what am I getting at in this simple discourse today?  I have three main discussions to challenge us with today:

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1) Stop the division among the church! 

When we draw lines in the sand around each other, and say cruel things about people who do not see the world as we see it we are guilty of drawing lines in the sand.  There becomes this “Us vs. Them” mentality within us.  We don’t see a unified body any longer, instead we see a splintered body who cannot get along.  Can you see how this might benefit our true enemy?  Can you see how Satan might truly enjoy twisting us into political pretzels over one or two issues and cause us to hate our fellow believer in Christ?

1 Peter 3:8 says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”  This passage says nothing about lording your opinions over another, nor does it say we draw lines in the sand, but it does remind us to be “like-minded”.  So how do we once again become like-minded?

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2) Common Ground:

Yes there may be political areas in which we may never agree upon.  But what are the things that we do agree upon?  Do we both believe Jesus was God’s One and only Son?  YES.  Do we believe that we have been redeemed by His blood and that because of Him we can find eternal life?  YES.  Do we believe that there is still a mission to fulfill in this world for the lost, the sin-sick, and the poor?  YES.  I believe we have common ground even if we cannot see eye to eye on some very specific issues within the political sphere of our world.  If we are to become like-minded once again then we have to stop demonizing those who we feel do not share our same political beliefs.

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3) Break down the barriers with helpful, loving discourse.  

Ephesians 2:14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”

I recognize each verse that I have quoted has specific contexts but it still has something very powerful for us to apply to our own lives today.  We may not see eye to eye, but this shouldn’t stop us from discussing important issues together of which we share different views.  Be mindful that we don’t fall into the traps of division by name calling and condescension either.  We cannot afford to appear superior in anyway towards one another as we humbly discuss our differences.   When we are able to sit together, division lines are crossed and barriers, that have been erected, can be torn down.  Helpful and loving discourse, with Christ at the center, can lead us into deeper fellowship with one another even if we don’t always see eye to eye.

Jesus said;  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 

Is this over simplistic?  Probably.  But I believe it to be true.  Far too many Christ-followers have aligned themselves to specific political parties and have forgotten ultimately in whose authority we live and serve under.  If we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up.  May that be our call to unification in the body of Christ, as we seek to work together instead of tear each other apart.

-Just a thought for today.

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Merry Christmas – Re-ignite the Dance!

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It is officially twelve days until Christmas, holiday shoppers are increasing while patience with our fellow man is slowly, sometimes rapidly, decreasing.  Yuletide mirth and cheer are everywhere!  I was driving down-town last night and the town was all aglow with ambient strings of lights hung meticulously as were the green festive wreathes on lampposts and specialty shops.  The colors blurred my vision as the reds danced and twinkled to an invisible tune played by the wind as the colors of blues and greens joined in.  They marked out a clear and perfect message; “Christ is almost here again!”  Perhaps it was all in my head, but I heard it’s siren’s song!  I heard the melodious cacophony of merriment and expectations!  My heart leap within my chest as I longed to join in as its tune caught my breath and carried it away in one puff of steam rising into the cold crisp air.  

I was alone, being it late at night, there in my van looking down a vacant street waiting for the light to change.  The giant Christmas tree before our old red bricked city hall also glowed and pulsated as the winter wind too en-wrapped its furry bows in merriment and festooning.  Such mystery and awe captured in this solitary moment.  I was caught off guard and yet something that night spoke to me.  Not an audible voice, nor a messenger from heaven with unfurled wings and halo to boot…though I have always longed for such a sign.  But His still small voice whispered into my very soul.  He made me look closely at the dance of His creation there before me.  The humming rhythm and the melodies and harmonies that sauntered on the breeze and blended in an intertwining dance.  He drew my eyes to the dimming lights of homes nearby and my thoughts wandered into their homes and into lives of people I have never met.  They too needed to dance like this.  They were missing the true celebration of Christmas.  They were missing the music of creation worshiping its Creator!  This music doesn’t just happen here on a cold winter night in December, but I felt closer to Him on this night.  My eyes caught its fire and I was ill-prepared to take it all in.  

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We need to dance to the music of the Creator.  We have lost this glow and joy from within our souls and hearts!  Our greatest gift, our source of hope and joy is still playing our tune and message that can ignite our lives once more.  We shouldn’t idly cruise on through, just trying to “survive”…I want to relish this.  We have to relish this!  Cannot miss this anymore.  It isn’t about the lights or the trees, or even the gifts beneath the tree, it’s about God sending us His Son…It’s about Jesus saying “If they keep quiet, the very rocks will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)    The rocks, lights and trees have cried out for far too long…it’s our turn to worship Him!  It’s our turn to re-capture the mystery and awe of His birth!  Don’t miss it again this year!  Don’t be caught unaware and wake up January 1st and wonder how you will survive this next year.  Stop from time to time and dance to His music.  Stop and sing His praises.  Stop and allow Him to shine through you into a world that still longs to wake up and dance as well.  

May your Christmas be about Him, and may He ignite in you like never before!  

Merry Christmas!

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Thanksgiving, Mystery and Childhood.

I’m sipping coffee, I know what else is new?  But as I sit here with my caffeine companion, blue cup, steam brimming from its edges and handle inviting me to grasp and chug down its contents, I am drawn to this topic of thanksgiving.  There’s a little film booth in my mind churning over snap shots and feature length moments of my life.  The booth is dark but for the flickering of projector light as dust dances in its wobbly yet dazzling rays of ambient lumens.  On screen, I am seven years of age.  Sun burst of blonde hair apparently free from the clutches of Dad’s comb that day laying every which way.  I am content.  No, better than content, I am full of joy and warmth.  It’s like that moment when you will finally see long lost relatives again that you’ve been anxiously longing to see since last you met.  Add to that euphoric sense the emotion of a snoozing Saturday when you have to plan, no chore list and absolutely no where to be.  

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I am more than content.  I am happy.  Isn’t it funny the small things that bring us joy?  The plastic bag of army men that probably cost 50 cents down at the convenience store clutched in a seven year old’s hands equaled joy that day.  Playing on Mom and Dad’s bed with folds of blankets, flowery in a sunburst pattern, abruptly becoming mountain ranges and ocean floors in some cosmic battle between good and evil (evil was slowly scaling the mountain only to be repelled again).  

But it wasn’t the plastic arm men that gave joy, it wasn’t their ongoing battle that filled me with jubilation and peace, it was where I was. And where I was can only be felt in the loving arms of children guided and loved by parents who cared.  We were loved.  Nothing greater a gift can be given to your children, than a consistent kind of love and affection!  I am thankful today for the places, the face, the small joys that I have experienced along the way.  Something as small as green plastic army men on my parents bed still brings me joy.  

May we still find these simplistic moments in our ever complicated lives.  I hope we never lose our child-like innocence and faith.  I’m thankful for still frames, images, moments that still replay in my mind.  These aren’t just memories, they are a part of who I was and who I have become.  Dare I say that we all have these moments of pure joy and peace.  When we felt secure, warm and loved.  It was never about any kind of materialistic gift, but rather, it was about parents who took the time to care and to show it.  

Parents, never forget how it was to be a child.  Never lose sight of the fact that life is still full of mystery and wonder.  Don’t whittle it away with logic and skepticism.  Faith begins in the heart of a child.  Matthew 18:3 says, “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  We need to return to the mystery of life once more.  

Just a simple thought of thanksgiving today.  

“From ‘Worst’ to Faithfully Appointed.”

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“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service.”  -1 Timothy 1:12

The man once named Saul, persecutor and murderer of Christ-followers has been redeemed.  Now, Christ’s ambassador, a humble servant renamed Paul writes to Timothy his protege and for all intense and purposes adopted son.  Paul is nearing the end of his life.  He knows that time is now running out for him.  He isn’t bitter.  He isn’t scorning and cursing his captors – Rome, instead he is making the most of his remaining time.   He writes this encouraging letter to Timothy as a father would lovingly pen words on a page to a son.  Paul considers himself the worst of sinners and even says son in his letter to Timothy.  

Is there regret from his previous life, before Christ cast his light of salvation on him on a dusty Damascus road?  Yes.  But has this regret stopped Paul from living for Christ alone?  No!  Though Paul considered himself the worst of sinners, he indicates to Timothy that Christ had also deemed him worthy of calling. 

What made Paul worthy?  Was it his own hard work and effort to be ‘good’?  No.  How can a killer of Christians now be considered worthy & faithful?  It becomes a matter of the heart.  What lives inside our hearts only we and God know.  What we feed on within out thought processes only we and God know.  Paul was convinced, and the evidence of his ministry results are apparent, that Christ had judged him faithful and appointed him to serve.  

What about us today? 

Do you feel worthy of being called by God?  Are you willing to serve Him wholeheartedly like Paul did?  We don’t need to have a theological degree to serve Him.  We don’t need to be highly educated to gather a towel around our waist and wash the feet of those around us for His glory.  We don’t need to be preachers like Billy Graham to share this message of hope to the world around us.  We just need to be faithful.  Christ Jesus can and will strengthen you as well, just as He did with Paul.  If we say ‘yes’ to His calling (whatever that calling looks like that enables us to serve Him) he will judge us faithful and then also appoint you as well to whatever task He needs you to serve Him in.  

You may consider yourself in your own minds to be the worst of sinners also.  You may think that God cannot forgive you for what you have done in your life…and you would be wrong!  Christ is willing to forgive you if only you will let Him.  When we open ourselves up to Him and His holy cleansing we will find love, grace and hope…we will find new life!  And in this new life, we too will be judged as faithful servants of the Most High.  

Are you willing today to trust Him?  Are you willing to allow Him into your life?  If you say yes to His calling on your life, watch out!  You will never be the same again!  Because the Apostle Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ many, many lives for changed including Timothy who did carry on in Paul’s footsteps.  Because Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ the very world was changed because of His testimony.  Today, this world needs more Pauls to boldly step up and say ‘yes’ to Christ…may you be a Paul today in your answer today!

-Just a thought.  

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