Monthly Archives: July 2018
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 NIV Translation
Or said another way:
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. Romans 8:5-8 The Message
The Apostle Paul goes onto say:
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
Romans 8:9-17 The Message
We are an integral part of God’s work in ourselves. Each of us must identify our own tendencies toward self-focus and what triggers our tendency to turn towards ourselves and not immediately towards God. Intently refocusing on God in these situations will shed a whole new light on our self-created cyclone and give us a new perspective. With this new perspective, our personal swirling dervish starts to diminish. And when the swirling dervish starts to slow down, misperceptions can be reinterpreted in the light of truth. Forgiveness becomes a reality. The by-products of the self-focused behavior begin to fall off.
The end result of the change from self-focus to God-focus is love and peace and joy – not to mention patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
. . . so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
FAST FORWARD – TWO THOUSAND YEARS LATER
A young couple was traveling from a big city to the safety of the country. They had lost everything in a hurricane but had enough money to buy two train tickets to make it to within 100 miles of their destination. They did not speak the native language very well, but knew enough to get by. They used their phone gps sparingly (they lost their charger) to point them in the right direction.
They walked for days trying to avoid difficult situations. They were hungry and tired. A storm drenched them. They found shelter on the steps of a locked church and slept on the concrete stoop. They persevered.
As they walked down a major highway, a follower of Jesus whizzed past them in the safety of her mini-van. She wondered what two people were doing walking down a highway with a duffle bag on their shoulder. She said a prayer for them but did not stop to inquire as to their condition – she was very busy and her mind moved on. Hundreds of other cars passed them by with no one inquiring as to their need.
Four hours later, the Jesus follower was returning home from work. It had been a very long day and she had things to do at home – children to care for, laundry to complete, plans to make. And then, she saw them.
Immediately, she knew that this moment in time was no coincidence – she had long ago learned that there are no coincidences in life. She called her husband who confirmed that she should not stop alone and so she traveled onto her hometown stopping at a fellow Jesus follower’s house for assistance. He immediately set aside his dinner and came with her.
The two of them stopped near the couple who were standing near a bridge. As they approached the young people, the Jesus Follower asked if they needed help. The young lady hesitantly and in a few words of English said they were fine.
Realizing that the couple did not speak her language very well, the Jesus Follower asked if they needed food and a place to stay. The Jesus Follower explained that she would call a Pastor friend who could help. The young lady’s eyes lit up when she heard “pastor” and looked with pleading eyes at her companion. She spoke to him in her native tongue and he hesitantly agreed.
The Jesus Follower called her friend, the Pastor, who was the director of a local church sponsored support agency. He steered them to a local campground and promised to assist in the morning. The couple climbed into the Jesus Followers van and they drove to the campground. All the cabins were full but the Campground owners offered a place to pitch a tent. The Jesus Followers called other Jesus Followers and with the wheels in motion for shelter, they traveled to a local fast food restaurant for dinner.
The couple was hungry and appreciated the meal. “Gracious” was shared. “God bless you” was spoken by these young people from a foreign land to the Jesus Followers. Breakfast foods were obtained and they all returned to the campground where three more Jesus Followers met them with a tent, sleeping mats and a cell phone charger. Bedding was produced by the campground who provided a bathhouse and the ability to charge the phone. The Pastor arrived in the morning and took them to breakfast, provided them with shoes, clothing, train tickets, and transport to the train.
Jesus asks the same questions: “Who are these young people’s neighbors?”
The Body of Christ answers, “Jesus Followers who had mercy on them, without regard to where they were from, what they had done, or where they were headed because: God knows them. God loves them. God provides for them.
That is how the Body of Christ should work. Each Jesus Follower discerning in the moment they are in what they are being called to do. There is no need to worry about the big picture or how the parts come together because God is in charge of that. Jesus Followers must learn to focus on Jesus and do what is right and good in the day they are in. If the Body of Christ can learn to do that individually, then we can be used by God together for His Glory – and one day when we are called home, we, too, can hear those words of Glory – “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me. John 14:6
I waited at road construction the other day. It was 90+ degrees and I was praying for the flag holder – what a difficult job! My air conditioner was pumping cool air into my car and I was quite comfortable but that flagger was red faced and sweating. It was a long wait because there was a “follow me” vehicle. Soon, it was my turn to follow the lead car. It was a windy road and there were multiple work crews on a 2-mile stretch. It was good to have the lead car because we kept switching lanes.
As I sat in contemplation with God today, I was reminded of that experience. God was helping me understand it as a parable. Jesus is the “lead car”. Those of us who are followers of Jesus are following Him through the road construction of life. Life is a windy road, with unexpected turns and lane changes. Jesus leads us through the twists and turns, the hazards and road blocks – through the rough patches and pot holes. As we experience this journey we are bumping up against God’s gift to us through Jesus – eternal life!
Eternal life is not something we “attain” at death but something that we have already received as believers in Jesus Christ. It is not taken from us when we screw up or hit a pot hole. It is here. It is now. It is real. We are His.
Ryan Stevenson describes it this way in his song “No Matter What”:
A lot of us grew up believing
At any moment we could lose it all
And at the drop of a hat
God might turn his back and move on
A lot of us feel like we blew it
Thinking that we’re just too far gone
But I want you to know
There’s still a hope for you now
No matter what you’ve done
You can’t erase His love
Nothing can change it
You’re not separated
No matter what
There’s never been a better time to get honest
There’s never been a better time to get clean
So come as you are
Run to the cross and be free
Oh be free
No matter what you’ve done
You can’t erase His love
Nothing can change it
You’re not separated
No matter where you run
He’s always holding on
You’re still a daughter, You’re still a son
No matter what
Don’t know what you’ve been taught
Don’t know what you’ve been told
All I know is my God
Will never let go of you
And I don’t know what you’ve seen
Don’t know what you’ve been through
All I know is my God
Will never let go of you
He’ll never let go
One day, we will all reach the end of the construction zone of life. In the meantime, the key to persevering is to keep our eyes on the one who knows the way – the one who leads us through the trials and tribulations of life – the one who deliverers us to the other side of each of these experiences – Jesus.
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-40
It is such a common trap – thinking about how someone else should be acting towards someone or something – trying to figure out what someone will think if a certain thing is said or a certain action occurs.
God, come close. Come quickly!
Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing!
Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising;
my raised hands are my evening prayers.
Post a guard at my mouth, God,
set a watch at the door of my lips.
Don’t let me so much as dream of evil
or thoughtlessly fall into bad company.
And these people who only do wrong—
don’t let them lure me with their sweet talk!
May the Just One set me straight,
may the Kind One correct me,
Don’t let sin anoint my head.
I’m praying hard against their evil ways!
Psalm 141:1-7 The Message
It becomes so complicated – this thing called life – when we are trying to figure out other people’s reactions and then what our reaction should be. We are tempted to repeat the issue over and over again to others (getting conflicting advise) which causes it to become bigger and more distorted. We “fret” and cause ourselves anxiety about an issue that has increased in size as we smolder in it. But remember, Jesus commands us to actively stop the fretting and set the worry aside.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” John 14:1
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 15:33
When in those situations – when we are being pulled toward worry, intrigue and judgment, it’s always good to remind ourselves of what we should be doing instead – loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:4-8
If we pray and ask God into the situation – If we remember that we are to actively set aside our worry – If love never fails – Then these situations are simplified in our minds and our job is to do what is “right” and “good” in the moment we are in and let God handle the rest. We don’t need to revisit the situation or dwell on it or smolder in it or worry about tomorrow. GOD HAS IT! AMEN!!
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10.
Grace is the unmerited and overflowing favor of God. We don’t deserve it, but God extends it because Jesus opened the pathway for us to be redeemed by Him. His extending Grace to us is also beyond our comprehension – overflowing in ways we simply cannot fathom.
God’s Grace intersects with each of us on a daily basis – we cooperate with God’s Grace through prayer.
Prayer is communicating with God. It can be corporate in nature – as in a prayer together with others during worship at Church. However, most prayer is “personal”. It is talking with God in solitude and silence, in the midst of disaster and chaos – in whatever situation we are in – at work, at play, at worship. It is done by kneeling or standing or sitting or running or singing. Prayer cannot be put into a box of “how to” but instead it is a lifestyle of consistently seeking relationship with God.
When God’s Grace intersects with our Prayer, we are cooperating with God to make the moment we are in Holy. It is how He asks us to live – drawing on his unmerited favor which overflows into our lives each and every day. Does that mean that we can ask anything and expect that He will respond –YES!! – He will respond – not always as we imagined or requested but He always responds to one of His children.
And what is the result of this lifestyle? Peace. Simple, uncomplicated Peace. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.
Remember . . . . God wants us to seek Him. As we seek Him more and more, His Grace will become more and more evident to us. . . . God’s Grace is enough. His Will Be Done. Amen