My Tribute to Moms

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We shouldn’t need a “special” day to thank Mom.  Every day should be a “special” day.  Moms have a way of knowing just when to call or tell you something that no one else has the guts to say to you.  Moms have been with us through the good, the bad, and the ugly (sometimes there has been a lot of “ugly”).  

Moms Get it

It is more than just Mother’s “intuition”, Moms seem to have a supernatural/extra-sensory connection with their children.  I’m not some sort of crackpot here, it’s just that I’ve seen it in person and I know there is more to a Mother-child connection than meets the eye.  Moms know what to say and sometimes more importantly what not to say but just to provide a hug or an expression of compassion, love and support.  

Don’t Mess with Mama

As a kid I remember saying something I shouldn’t have.  My mouth ran briskly while my brain was too slow to catch it.  What happened next is still vivid in my mind.  I nearly lost my nose, because the words I had said were directed at my mother.  They were bad words.  Words I should never have said.  Hurtful, razor sharp daggers of lingo…and I was wrong.  My mother slapped me on my face and I thought my nose was going to fly off.  I deserved it – lesson learned. 

But watch out world…

If you ever mess with Mama’s kids…you’re going to get a smack down like no other.  Some say World War 3 will be caused by Superpowers and nuclear war.  I beg to differ.  If you mess with Mama’s kids, you might as well hang a sign around your neck that reads “I caused World War 3.”  Image

 

 

Not only does Mom know what to say to help her kids and how to correct her kids, but she will defend her kids at all cost.  You deserve to be warned should you pick a fight with her children…you might just have taken your life in your own hands.  

To My Mom –

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My Mom and Dad

I love you and I am so proud of you!  You have helped me through a lot of things.  You have always been there (I know I’m lucky, some never had it as good as we did growing up).  You sacrificed a lot for us kids.  There were times that I know you and Dad went without things just to make sure Sherry and I didn’t.  I can never repay that kind of love except to replicate that example in how I love my children and in how I love you.  

As we all grow older I am learning how to cherish and treasure you as my Mother.  I am so thankful to God for providing you to my life. The decisions I have made in this life were because I had the instruction of two godly people growing up – Mom and Dad.  This is worth so much more than earthly treasures and riches.  This, as I am slowly beginning to realize more and more, is what life is all about.  

To my Wife – Shanais Strissel

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My Mom and Shanais on our Wedding Day (September 12th, 1998)

I am the luckiest man alive!  I married my best friend and life long companion.  She is an amazing Mom, and she personifies Christ to our children!  I consider myself blessed because She said “Yes” almost 16 years ago when I proposed.  Since then, through the good, the bad and the ugly, She has been a rock and a light to me and these four crazy blessings we call kids.   Wow…I still can’t find the words to express how much I love her and what she means to me.  That being said, I plan on spending the rest of my life trying to collect those verbs, adjectives and everything in between to try and bring to light how important and loved she is to me.  

For You, the Reader – 

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Hug your Moms.  Cherish who they are.  Life, this temporal thing, is short.  Take time to appreciate all that your mother has taught you.  Make sure you take the time to tell her how much she has done to shape you as a person.  

Don’t lose any opportunity to appreciate your Mom.  She deserves your respect and love…so show it.

-Just something more to ponder on this Mother’s day weekend.

 

“Perspectives” – Day 6 Featuring Jared Collins (Lieutenant) “The Fickle Nature of Love”

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The Fickle Nature Of Love

 

            I found out early last week that a young man, Reggie, who was in our corps youth programs a few years ago was arrested for the murder of a 15 year old kid.  I found myself going through an interesting thought process as I sought to make sense of the needless act of violence.  My first thought was, “What could I have done better as a person who had influence on this young man’s life that may have changed where he is today.”  I then was immediately ashamed of the thought.  Because I, like so many of us, had made the whole situation about me instead of others.  So then I thought about Reggie.  And I thought about where he was at that particular moment.

 

            At the College for Officer Training we, as has been a long standing tradition, went to the Cook County Jail during Christmas time to sing some carols and do a little devotional for the occupants.  My small group had an interesting time as we were sent to a cell block that was much smaller than those visited by our other groups so we were finished much more quickly.  So they sent us to a group of individuals who were just finishing being processed and awaiting a more permanent cell assignment.  It was one of the more profound moments of my Training for me.

            These (mostly) young men were just then realizing the gravity of their situations.  Most of the others in the cell blocks we had already visited had been there for quite some time.  Even though it was a jail and not a prison some, we were told, had been there in the process of their trial and, therefore, in that jail for over 10 years.  But these young men we were sent to had just been arrested hours before.  We quickly realized this wasn’t the place for some flippant Christmas carols and a message that would, no doubt, fall on deaf ears.  So we put the music and message aside in favor of individually speaking with each person who wanted to talk.  Almost every one of them was in the same mindframe – shock at the prospect of where a good deal of their future may be taking place. 

 

            And I thought about Reggie in those young men’s shoes.  We had gone to Stateville Prison as well while at CFOT and had met all the men who had (mostly) come to accept their sentences.  But, if Reggie was like those young men who were just finishing processing, he was a long ways away from a peaceful frame of mind.

So I wrote Reggie a letter.  It wasn’t long or particularly articulate, but I really felt led to tell him two things: I love him and God loves him.  Nothing about the arrest or the trial, just a short message of love.  I don’t know if Reggie truly murdered that 15 year old boy, but I do know that I love him and that God loves him. 

 

Which led me to the shame I felt after mailing the letter.  Maybe shame isn’t the right word.  It was more a reflection on the fact that I had mailed that letter without much thought for the deceased 15 year old or his family and friends.

The article that talked about Reggie’s arrest said that the arrest came with “the help of the community and social media.”  So I looked up Reggies facebook profile and saw that he had, indeed, posted something about the 15 year old’s death – expressing shock and dismay at the thought of losing someone whom he called a friend. 

His post was shared dozens of times, all from people who were outraged by his alleged audacity at posting something feigning innocence and ignorance when he may have pulled the trigger.  One comment was particularly interesting as it was filled with expletives and hate towards Reggie and ended with the innocent comment, “My prayers are with the [deceased’s] family.” 

Now I know that not all who use that last phrase are practicing Christians and it could just be a kind sentiment not meant to convey actual spiritual convictions, but I was struck by the seemingly two-faced nature of the comment.  On the one hand tearing apart and expressing hate while simultaneously expressing compassion.  I won’t say that it shocked me.  Nor will I say that I can’t imagine how someone could do that but, implicitly, I think my subconscious was saying to me that I would NEVER say something that duplicitous.

 

And yet…

 

I’m writing this right now as my wife is in the hospital with a beloved congregant because she was, just minutes ago, physically assaulted, maybe with a gun, and maybe raped.  And as a reasonably well balanced person I’m more than a little disturbed to have been sitting here contemplating going over to the residence of her attacker and sharing a piece of my mind and, perhaps, my fists.  This urge has been tempered by the understanding that the attacker has been taken into police custody but this understanding has NOT tempered my anger and maybe even hatred towards this man. 

            So now I ask myself, “What’s the difference between this attacker and Reggie?”  Should I not be just as outraged at Reggie for allegedly taking the life of a teenager?  Will I be writing a letter to this attacker telling him that God and I love him?  The obvious difference is in the knowledge and relationship that I have with the victim of tonight’s attack and with Reggie.  Because I know them and not the 15 year old boy or the attacker of my congregant, I am more prone to love and forgive them than I am those I don’t know.

            It’s a double standard, I know.  And it’s based on no rationality and I even acknowledge that it’s wrong and sinful for me to hate the attacker of my friend.  And I think, more than anything, it boggles my mind as I attempt to grasp the mind of God and the measure of his love and forgiveness. 

 

I think I finally understand where some of the 1st century Jews must have come from in their incredulity at the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God.  How can God offer forgiveness and love towards them? 

I am a very loving person (though I don’t often express it in any grandiose way) and yet it is very difficult for me to find the love within myself for the attacker of my congregant because I know what he has done to my friend.  And to think that God, knowing the heart and actions of this man would still have love for Him makes no sense to me because I seem to be incapable of doing it myself. 

 

And so I know that this offers no new insight.  It’s almost a cliche to say that God loves you no matter what you’ve done.  He loves Reggie.  He loves the duplicitous writer of the facebook post.  He loves the family and friends of the 15 year old boy.  He loves my congregant.  He loves her attacker.  And he loves me, even though I struggle to always love them and myself for having conflicting thoughts. 

None of this is particularly revelatory except when I think that I, as a pastor, have the capability of harboring hatred in my heart.  It was naive of me to think that any massive change would happen to make me impervious to hatred or sin in general when the trim on my shoulders turned red.  But it scares me to think that these feelings may be in the hearts of my fellow pastors and officers.  And we may think little of these feelings because we implicitly believe they’re somehow outweighed by our “holiness” and righteous deeds. 

So it’s to us that Paul is writing the entirety of Romans 2.  But specifically verses 17-29. 

 

1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

 

12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

 

17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

 

25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

(NASB)

 

Thank you, God, for verse 11 – for showing no partiality towards or against us.  Forgive us for the times that we fail to feel and, even more, to show that impartiality to others. 

I want, dear Lord, a love that cares for all.  A deep strong love that answers every call.  A love like Thine, a love divine, a love to come or go.  On me, dear Lord, a love like this bestow1.

Create in me a loving heart, that people may see your impartial love through me. 

 

            In His Service,

            Jared Collins

 

1 George Galloway Jackson.  I want, dear Lord. SASB#426

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Heaven is for real…and so are we! (Don’t be a blind label follower)

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I wouldn’t attempt to criticize “Christian” movies coming out onto the silver screen.  I think perhaps they have a message that might reach certain people.  Take the most recent movie, for example – “Heaven is for real” based on the book and real life account of Colton Burpo: 

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I am certainly not in a place to judge the authenticity of his story, this isn’t my purpose for this blog entry.  I recognize too that Heaven is for real.  That when Jesus said that He was going there to prepare a place for us (starting with His original disciples) that He meant it.  Life does not end at the final exhalation of breath, but continues…How or where that will be is still a mystery to us all.  But here is where faith comes in.  

Still…

I don’t draw my criticism of the content of this story nor the content of other such movies recently released that also have faith-based themes.  Where my criticisms lie is in the cheap budgets and production content.  

I understand the need to be relevant in the world…and I don’t necessarily go to see a movie just because it is labeled “Christian” just as I don’t necessarily patronize certain businesses because they also happen to be “Christian(s)”.  Does that label make the product better in some way?  Will their services far exceed the services of others who don’t label themselves as “Christians”?  

Another thought that comes to mind within this realm of “Christian” labeling is: Do I solely live within a “Christian” bubble then?  

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Every where I go, everyone I see, the things I choose to buy are they all “Christian”?  Is my worldview solely engaged in other Christians out there so much so that I have no contact…with “those“. “Other“.  “People“.  ????

 

Don’t get me wrong, I need to hear encouraging and challenging teachings about Christ and about faith too, but what happens next?  What will I then do with those teachings if my entire ecosystem is “Christian”?  How does that impact the lost?  How can I reach out a compassionate hand of understanding…if I don’t understand?  

 

I’m not knocking the movie “Heaven is for Real”…I think there is some serious merit in exploring Eternity and our destination there one day…but what I am knocking (for lack of a better word) are Blind Label Followers.  

Ephesians 6:12 says – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

This is sandwiched right in between the verses about putting on the whole armor of God.  
In one hand we put on our armor and gird ourselves against sin, temptation and the dark forces of evil.  In the other hand we recognize that people around us who are lost (as we once were) are not the enemy!  Sin is the enemy and we wage a spiritual war within this world.  

If we only exist within the “Christian” label ecosystem how can we reach out to those who are completely blind to sin and its trappings? 

Here’s what I am not saying: 
I am not saying stop watching strictly “Christian” movies…there’s a time and place for them and at times an active evangelistic tool.
I am not saying don’t buy anything “Christian” either…that’s just plain dumb and we need edification and challenge through authentic Christ-following authors and teachers.  

What I am saying:
Break the Christian bubble if you’re living in one.  
Reach out into the world (don’t be conformed to it mind you) and love as Christ did to the whosoever.
Be wise and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in discerning how you should act and be instead of living through “group think”.  
Live out-loud your faith but take the time to listen to the needs of the unsaved around you!

-Just a thought.

ATTENTION: Join me tomorrow as I explore what others have said about seeing Jesus face to face.

Just something else to ponder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Salvation important…to the Church?

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Sometimes I think the church is more concerned about competition than it is about people.
It strikes me that many churches spend a lot of money on “church-growth” seminars and guest speakers and even other resources just to increase their Sunday attendances.  I doubt many pastors are like this, but at times there is this perception that the more people a church can attract the more in tithes and offerings they will receive.  

I feel it vital, for we who are church members and fellow sojourners of Christ, to stop the comparisons and the rivalries.  What is the purpose of such folly?  Are we fulfilling the great commission when we look across the street and the other church and covet what they have?  Are we really reaching the lost and hurting in our world when we mock or slam other churches and denominations?  Granted there is a time and place for theological conversations, but our unloving actions have a way of destroying any good we might do.  

Fellow believers in Christ, how vital do you consider the salvation of others to be?  This isn’t a question about how big or small your (our) church is, this is a question about your (our) mission and your (our) priorities.  Sometimes we cloudy the already murky waters of what we do and make excuses for our busy-ness when the #1 priority is to, through the Holy Spirit’s power, help save lost souls.  If what we are doing does in no way impact the potential salvation of the lost then, perhaps, we must once again re-align our priorities.  

I offer you two solutions to assist in the realignment of mission:

 1.  Stop Coveting what you do not have!  

1 Corinthians 12:12 – “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

We need to get back to work!  Just because another church is having success doing one thing really well, doesn’t mean that we have to stop what we are doing and adopt their mission.  Perhaps they are fulfilling their “part of the body” and we need to put our heads down and stop coveting what they are doing!  Our mission and effective tools, given by the Holy Spirit, might be something completely different than theirs.  We don’t need to have an identity crisis over this, we have to move on and prayerfully and humbly do as He (the Holy Spirit) prompts us to.  We may never look like that mega-church down the street, but was that supposed to be our “model” for Holy Living in the first place?  NO!  Jesus should never be replaced with out covetous longings to be someone else.  He has created us very differently and uniquely!  So with that in mind we need to stop the comparisons and sometimes the jealousy…get on with it!   

2.  Start using what you do have!  

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts and dare I say even the passion to fulfill our mission of Salvation to the lost.  So we must be willing to use what He has given us to use.  We must stop with our identity crisis and get on with the full utilization of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit wishes us to employ!  He provides what we need, so we have to work within our giftings and abilities!  Every one of us is vital to the body of Christ.  It matter little if we serve in a small church or big church.  The message has to be the same though the gifts might often differ.  

Is Salvation important to you?  

If the answer is “yes” then we need to put aside our jealousy and our frustrations.  We may even have to go before the Father and ask for forgiveness because of our covetous ways.  The church was never intended to be some sort of statistical competitive success drive, but rather a mission of love, compassion and grace who willingly went to the orphans, widows, the poor and hurting and those who were seeking.  We are still that today?  Can we put aside our ridiculous worldly desire for statistical successes and instead focus on the vital nature of the great commission and disciple making?  

Perhaps it’s time for a readjustment of our motives and our missions.  Perhaps it’s time to get back on our knees and allow the Holy Spirit to reignite our wandering hearts.  Perhaps it is time to stop relying on our “church-self help books & seminars” (sometimes they work) and start relying more on the leading of the Holy Spirit in our churches and in our hearts.  There is not some “quick” method to salvation…it begins in relationship, love and fellowship.  So, without further adieu, let’s get on with it!  

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“The Jesus Fan Club”

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Perhaps you’ve seen the bible study or read some books which ask the question are you a “Fan” or are you a “Follower” of Jesus?  A fan would be one who sits on the sidelines, cheers (also complains when things aren’t going the way they expect them to go) but never really gets onto the field to do any of the real labor within the realms of faith.  

I don’t mean to rail against the Church…well maybe I do a little.  This isn’t about not loving people, actually it’s quite the opposite.   What can we do to change the perception of the Church?  What can we do to change the perception of the “Fan Club”?

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1.  It begins with You & Me:

We can’t change the polarizing views of some people who use the name “Christian” but do not act like Christians.  BUT we can change the way that we conduct ourselves and how we live in community with those around us.  It has to begin with you and me!  Without this internal determination to change, the “Fan club” wins.  

2. Move with Love:

When we allow it to begin with us and allow the Holy Spirit to move us we can’t but help to love and serve.  It’s about loving and serving the Almighty as well as loving and serving other people around us.  Faith has to have feet in order for it to change lives including our own.  We aren’t merely fans of Jesus, we MUST be His followers.  Love compels us forward even into places that we would never consider going because it is no longer about “Me” but it’s about “Him”.  

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We can tear down these walls that separate the Church from the “real world”…but it means that we can’t just take shelter in our buildings and presume people will find us.  Jesus didn’t hang out in temples for the entirety of His ministry here on Earth, He went to people, and if we are to be like Him, if we are to follow Him then we  ought to go to people too!  

Jesus doesn’t need anymore fans…He needs followers who are willing to do the hard work, not because hard work will get us into heaven, but rather because we have put feet with our faith.  Are you ready to move?  

-Just a thought.  

At the Well…

 

 

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He seated himself beside the well 
sun beating down, heat of the day
swelling and shimmering in the heat
a mirage swiveled and swirled in the distance
she came, reputation and all
she walked the dusty path alone
she bore the scorn and shame
every day like this.

He saw her pensively waiting there,
waiting for Him to move on  
waiting for Him to step aside
so that cool water, crisp and clean
could be drawn and taken home…
Yet He doesn’t falter
He looks at her, as if He knows her shame.
Yet, undeterred He remains
no look of disgust
of retribution
of Anger
He looks at her, 
asks for a drink
then offers her something more
something lasting
Identities are shared, 
His sends her running back into town
with news beyond her reputation
beyond her guilt and fear of the town’s gossip…
Messiah – with Eternal Water
drink deeply, receive and share
it is for the whosoever…
after all.  

 

 

 

 

Either Put Up or Shut Up! I’m All in or nothing at all!

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

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The Jewish leaders struggled over 613 individual moral statutes or commands by which they were to live and conduct themselves.  Sometimes they debated among themselves as to which of these moral statutes were vital and which of them were less vital.  They didn’t want to make the mistake of placing some statues above more important one and vice-versa.  Yet this struggle brought itself right before Jesus.  One of the teachers ventured to ask Him this question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28).  

Jesus laid it all out for those who would hear Him; “The most important one,” Jesus answered, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Now, dear fellow Christ-follower, it is either time for us to put up or shut up.  I don’t mean to be crass here or offend you, but I cannot stress how vital it is for us to love the Lord with every fiber of our being.  Jesus placed this as the #1 priority in the lives of those asking and still today it ought to be #1 in our lives as well.  

Let me illustrate: 

Our homes are powered by electricity (well most of them are anyway).  If we were to bring in a brand new television to watch we first must take it out of the box and connect it to a power source.  Without the power source all of our favorite shows and possibilities are impossible.  We need to plug that television into the power in order for anything to happen, without it nothing works and nothing ever will.

Without first loving God with our EVERYTHING nothing else will work.  Without first loving God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are powerless.  It is either all or nothing.  God doesn’t want a partial kind of love.  He isn’t some on again off again God, either get on board with Him and love Him completely or don’t at all.  

Secondly, don’t try and fake out God…He’s not buying the act.  Others might see how good we look dressed up for Church and how we act in front of other Christians but if this isn’t consisted behind the scenes God knows.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  I’m not here to say that I have this all figured out either, because I too struggle at times with a divided heart.  Not intentionally mind you, but at times I catch myself and find that I have to once again realign my relationship and priorities with God.  

How is your heart today?  Do you find that at times you have a divided heart when it comes to your relationship with the Lord?  Perhaps it’s time for a heart realignment so that you can once again get plugged back into the true sources of power and life.  

Scriptures readings:  

Isaiah 29:13, Psalm 86:11, Mark 12:28-34

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My Feelings About Fred Phelps Sr. – Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is dying.  Over the course of many years now the Westboro Baptist church has been at the forefront of many controversial public protests.  You might remember them for their many anti-gay signs and their now infamous quotes like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11”!  (Link: http://nypost.com/2014/03/16/westboro-baptist-pastor-in-hospice-care/)

I’m not here to slam Pastor Fred.  He’s already taken a lot of heat and his “church” has even been labeled a hate group.  I will say however that I seriously doubt Jesus would have ever stepped foot in the doors of a church like this…okay maybe He would have to confront them perhaps…I digress.  But I’m not here to judge them on their merits or lack there of.  I’m not even here to condemn this pastor.

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I wonder what it would be like to go to the hospice facility that Pastor Fred is now located at and hold signs not of hate and condemnation, but signs of love and concern?  I’m not saying we should do this but it certainly would be interesting to see the response.  Another thought that came to mind when hearing about his impending death – every person should face death with human decency and dignity including Pastor Phelps.  

At the end of the day if we stoop to the level of outrage and hate like these protests conducted by the Westboro baptist church, we in essence are no better.  I’m not implying that we’re better than they are, don’t get me wrong, I’m just suggesting that instead of celebrating his soon to be passing, let’s pray for Pastor Fred and others like him in our world.  

This world is already too full of hate, too full of extremist fundamentals (and to be fair on the other side of things extreme leftist liberals as well)…this world is already too full of condemnation as well.  We don’t need to fall into these ranks as well.  Jesus once said; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

2 reasons to love our enemies and pray for them: 

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1) It frees us of hate

This section is hard for me.  I personally want to retaliate when someone wrongs me, I want to inflict the same kind of pain on any person who dares do me wrong…but I shouldn’t because it only empties bitterness into my heart.  They say you become what you think about most often, and if I allow this thought of hurting my enemies and vengeance inside me then I am no better a person than they are.  When we open our hearts, as Jesus suggested, to love we catch a glimpse of the divine original purpose for all of humanity.  If I love that person, if I love Pastor Fred despite his actions, I free myself of a kind of hate that destroys hearts and lives.  

Does this mean that justice isn’t pursued or sought out?  Of course not, but remember that God is the judge and ultimately every person will have to stand before Him, so be careful that we have sorted out our own hearts and motives for wanting such justice on others.   

When we are freed from hatred, we can learn to love more…and this leads to being like Christ in our pursuit and His workings of Holiness.  

2) It opens up opportunities for our enemy to find salvation

 

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What takes place when we extend grace to those who have spurned us and done us wrong?  One it really messes with their heads (not our purpose of course) but two, it hopefully causes them to want to change!  Obviously not every one of our enemies will change because we loved them, I don’t want to sell you a pipe dream here, but God can and still does perform miracles does He not?  Enemies still need salvation too, and perhaps someone to show them what real authentic love looks like.  

I want to pray for Pastor Fred Phelps Sr, and for His church.  I know that hate is our natural response to others who show hate, but if we’re to be like Christ, no matter how hard it may be for us, we ought to show love as our response.  Shining dark into dark will only make things darker, but if we shine the light of Christ into that absence of light, lives can be redeemed and drastically changed!  

Pastor Fred, I pray for the remaining hours of life that you have here on earth.  You have a Father in heaven who loves you and wants you to love Him back in return.  May His grace, peace and especially love find its place in your heart.  To the members of the Westboro Baptist church I say, love opens doors that hate never will.  Repent, seek grace and forgiveness and know that other Christ-followers are praying for you with the love of Christ.  We also pray that you will once again see what God is truly saying to you and that you seek to bring peace and grace into the doors of your church.  

-Sincerely in Christ.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

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!  

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