I Wonder…

I wonder what will happen tomorrow…or the day after tomorrow.

Will the ’causes’ that I agreed with have passed? Will those I disagreed with have failed?

Will the candidates I voted for have won, or been defeated?

Obviously, I don’t know that, and no one does-despite what all the conspiracy theorists out there say!

One thing is true: No matter what happens, it will still be UP TO ME to choose how I treat my fellow humans.

If my opinions prevail, and every vote I cast is part of the winning majority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

If my opinions fail, and every vote I cast is part of the losing minority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

This truth is something we simply must grasp–all of us! Each of us!

After all, the only way we can hope to get out of the cultural quagmire and the animosity so prevalent in our culture is if each one of us take responsibility for our own actions. Not the Government–not the President or his cabinet, the the US Congress, not the State Congress, not the courts…and so on.

YOU and I simply MUST commit to civility, discussion, respect and yes, love for one another.

From my perspective, as a Christian, the most loving thing I can do–no matter what political events transpire around us–is to point people to Jesus the Christ. He is “The Way, The Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except by Him. (John 14:6). He is the “Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His Sheep.” (John 10:11). While our enemy comes to ‘steal, kill, and destroy”, Jesus has come “that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but will have everlasting life! For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so the world could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

None of those things are changed by our temporary (and yes–important) politics.

All of those things are true for everyone in the world–not only in America.

Keep that in mind tomorrow…and the day after, and the day after, and the day after….

We are here…for Him!

 

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The Test

How do you know if something is ‘legit’?

How do you know if you can trust a person–a teacher, a boss, a politician, a minister?

Is it possible to know, for example, whether or not a Church or ‘religious organization’ is the ‘real deal’ or not?

Is there a ‘litmus test’?

 

Actually, there is!

In my reading this morning, I came to 1 John 4: 1-3, which says: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

Note: that does NOT mean that ‘everyone who admits that Jesus was real’ is legit.

You have to remember, they didn’t write First and Last names back then–in other words ‘Jesus Christ’ isn’t like saying ‘Dave Johnson’. In that day, they either introduced someone as to their family, “Jesus, son of Joseph”, or according to their origin, “Jesus of Nazareth”. “Jesus Christ” is His name and His title. ‘Christ’ is not a last name, but a title, meaning ‘Chosen One’ or ‘Anointed One’…Messiah.

John is saying that “Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus (of Nazareth) is from God, and is the Messiah’ is from God. In fact, it’s clear that John taught that Jesus is God, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Messiah, and Jesus is Risen. Therefore, anyone who does not acknowledge all of these things is representing ‘the spirit of the antichrist’. 

He goes on to say that You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:4-6

Anyone who does not acknowledge these truths about Jesus is ‘from the world’ and will only speak from this world’s viewpoint–not God’s.

Therefore, Christian, you MUST be crystal clear: Jesus the Christ is God! Jesus the Christ is Messiah! Jesus the Christ is Risen, Jesus the Christ is LORD, and Jesus the Christ is the One and Only Mediator between God and Man.

He is ‘The One’ that “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” (Philippians 2:10-11)

Let no one deceive you: No bumper sticker, no popular speaker, no tv show, nobody which says anything like ‘all roads lead to God’ or ‘as long as you’re sincere…’, or anything like that is ‘legit’.

It is absolutely true that God loves us, and He wants us to come to salvation, through Jesus the Christ…but He is THE authorized One, period.

He is the embodiment of God–His character, His holiness, His righteousness and His grace.

Matthew 7:13-14:  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” 

Are YOU trusting in Him, or in the voices from this world?

Come! NOW is the time to Worship Him!

 

Boldly Follow God’s Call!

You want to follow God, right?

You want to know His will and do it.

You want to listen for His voice, then follow.

…and you assume that your family and friends want to support you in doing so…right?

Not necessarily.

For sure, most of us have family members or friends who will support us in our desire to follow God. Some will even support you, for example, on a Missions Trip–even if they, personally do not have any interest in ever going on one.

However, there are times when those you care about will not support you.

Luke 12:51–53: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Note: The ‘division’ is caused when Jesus calls us to follow and others don’t want us to. It is impossible to ‘follow Him’ and ‘follow others’ at the same time. The division is caused because many–even, at times, those we know and love–do not want to follow Him, and actively oppose any who do.

There are many times that the culture around you will not only ‘withhold support’, but will actively oppose you! In fact, there are times that they will launch an all-out assault against you for doing so!

Ezra 3:3: “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”

When God calls you to follow Him in some endeavor–stepping out in faith to do so–don’t let those around you sway you! Instead, make sure–through Prayer, the Word, the wisdom of other godly men and women, and the testimony and leading of the Holy Spirit within–that you are ‘on track’ with the Lord. If, after these things, you still think you hear clearly what He wants you to do, pray and DO IT!

There will be times when everyone gets in line behind you and cheers you on. Be thankful for those times.

However, don’t ‘depend on’ them. Instead, be led by the Spirit!

Romans 8:5-9:

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh 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. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.”

When He leads…FOLLOW!

 

 

Power Source

Power.

One thing we all need, and it’s the key to progress.

If you have ‘power’, you can make improvements, invent new things, have comfortable environments, light up dark spaces, etc. When the power goes out, however, you’re stuck.

There seems to be a continual quest to invent/discover new ways of making power go further, or even new ways to get power–the wind and sun, for example.

The idea is that, if we could harness the power of nature, then it would be virtually limitless (and probably cheaper in the long run).

Power is attractive. It is interesting. Think of the stories you’ve read–whether fact or fiction. Very often, there’s a ‘power struggle’ in those stories.

The wildly-popular Avengers case in point. Avengers

In every Avenger’s story is a unique source of power–whether through discovery or accident, each one has a Power Source that makes them special. That’s part of the reason that we love ‘superhero’ movies so much–each has a unique and ‘special’ talent and source of power, and that makes us think that maybe WE have a unique source of power!

If you know me at all, you know that I really do believe that there is A SOURCE of real power–power for life,  power for meaning and purpose, power for eternity, etc. That Source of power is, of course, God.

To those who acknowledge and accept Him, God gives the power to live life the way it was designed to be lived–in submission to Him, in worship of Him, in following Him–for His glory and for our good!

The thing that many of us–even sincere, committed believers–miss, is that the Power comes from GOD, not from us. Not from ‘religion’, not from ‘church’, not from a ‘program’, not from a ‘strategy’…the power is in the RELATIONSHIP with God, through faith in Jesus! This ‘faith’ in Jesus–and the relationship it brings–is THE SOURCE of our Power to change.

Romans 1:16-17:

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

If you are a ‘believer’, but are struggling hard to ‘make it work’, it could be because you’ve put the ‘product’–the ‘victorious Christian life’ before the ‘process’–knowing God more and more, through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

There IS Power to live in healing, forgiveness, victory,  and freedom…and that all comes from walking closely with Jesus.

That’s why we talk at Kalamazoo Community Church about “Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God”. This is the key to “Life to the full” (John 10:10) that Jesus promised!

Start TODAY to invest in the ‘relational’ aspects of faith–pray, worship, talk with God. These will help you learn not only ‘What’ to do, but the ‘Why’ as well–because of God’s love for you, and yours for Him.

There’s POWER…in the name of JESUS!

 

Thirsty?

My buddies and I loved to play basketball in the summer. We’d spend hours at each others’ houses playing in driveways or on backyard courts. We had no other agenda in 7th and 8th grade…before we got jobs…and loved hanging out.

After hours playing ball in the summer sun at my friend Rob’s house, we’d always do the same thing: We’d go in to his basement (it was nice and cool) and drink ice cold Mountain Dew (the ‘classic’ version). Nothing better…went down fast and smooth. The key was that it was cold, and we were THIRSTY!

Most of you have had that kind of thirst before. Perhaps your drink of choice was ice cold water (maybe even from a hose) or Gatorade, or something like that…but you know that refreshment.

I wonder: Do you have that kind of thirst, spiritually?

Are you ‘thirsty’ for more in your relationship with God?

Think of it this way: If you’re really hot and thirsty, and someone holds an ice cold drink up to you, what do you do? You grab it and chug it!

You would probably not sit down politely and look at it, talk about the condensation on the outside of the cup, discuss how nice it will be to drink it some day…that would be madness! Instead, you’d DRINK IT!

Many of us, when it comes to God, however, simply sit down and politely discuss it…reflect on it…and contemplate it. That’s part of the problem: We look at God as an ‘it’–a force or a concept.

God is an individual. God is a ‘person’. 

He wants us to ‘thirst’ for Him and to want to know Him!

In fact, this is what you and I are designed for! We’re literally created to know Him…if we don’t, life cannot work the way it was designed.

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.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

So…are you ‘thirsty’ for more of Him?

If not, you should be…I encourage you to spend some time asking ‘God, if I believe you’re real, WHY do I not desire you more?’

Spend some time praying about that.

If you are a Believer already, you might think, ‘I’m good; I’m in…already going to heaven.’

However, that’s not what I asked about. I asked, ‘Are you Thirsty for more?’ 

If not, you should be.

You need to spend time in prayer asking God to renew your thirst again also!

This thirst is much more important than a physical thirst!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Let yourself be ‘thirsty’ again…and go to The Source for refreshment!

“All Who are Thirsty”…are YOU one?

Fear–a Good Motivator?

Fear.

We’ve all felt it.

We’ve all experienced it.

Something goes ‘bump’ in the night and wakes us up.

Someone threatens us.

Opposition arises to a cause, a belief, a person we hold dear.

Fear can be complex.

It can drive us to a ‘fight or flight’ response.

But we often get it wrong.

Some of the things we should ‘fight’ we choose to flee from.

Others we should flee from, we stubbornly stand and fight.

Think of Temptation, for example: There are many times we should simply flee the situation when we’re tempted, but we sometimes tell ourselves that ‘we can handle it’, and we stay near. Oftentimes, that is when we become most vulnerable to falling.

Other times, we should fight…for example, when opposition to our faith arises. A stand we’re taking, a belief we have may be entirely consistent with our faith…yet, opposition arises. In fact, opposition is increasing to many of the Scriptural teachings, which not long ago, were respected and widely held.

So, what should we do in those cases?

We stand…strong…and fight!

“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20); “We must obey God, rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

In those cases, it was more important to Peter that he please God, rather than taking the easier way out and pleasing men–even, in this case, men who had some degree of influence over their immediate future.

In fact, there are many times in the life of an average believer in Jesus that it becomes difficult to stand with Him.

In that case, it’s not a question of ‘whether’ you let ‘fear’ guide you, but rather ‘Which fear’?

Do you ‘fear’ men? Do you ‘fear’ your friends, the ‘popular’ kids, the ‘bullies’, or even the terrorists?

OR…do you ‘fear’ God, and disappointing Him. Do you ‘fear’ letting Him down? Do you ‘fear’ compromising and causing His name to be maligned in some way?

Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

I, for one, do not want to give in to the fear of others’ opinions. If any ‘fear’ should drive me, it’s being ‘afraid’ of compromise and hurting the heart of my loving heavenly Father.

So, by all means: Allow FEAR to motivate you: Just make sure it’s the right ‘fear’!

You are a Child Of God! You need not fear anything!

 

Prayer: God’s Love Language

I was thinking the other day that, if God had a ‘primary’ love language, it would probably be Prayer.

Many of you have heard about and/or read Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. The idea behind this book is that we all have a primary ‘love language’ that resonates with us, and therefore, if I want to show someone love, I should do it in a way which ‘connects’ with them. If someone is an ‘acts of service’ person and all I give them is ‘words of affirmation’, those words may fail to fully communicate my love, no matter how sincere they are.

Now, I realize that, as the Scriptures say, “God is Love”. (1 John 4:8). He does not ‘lack’ any of the ‘love languages’, and He is able to communicate His love fully, completely and without our help.

However, God–as a ‘relational’ being–wants to communicate with us. The perfect Heavenly Father wants to connect with us as His children. He wants to communicate His love for us, and He loves when we communicate our love for Him.

This is the way with any good, intimate, growing and vibrant relationship–there is frequent, authentic, and honest communication as a major part of it.

So, how do we communicate with God?

There are many ways–

Worshiping Him–His character, His attributes;

Thanking Him–His actions, His goodness toward us;

Enjoying Him–His beauty, His blessings…

In all of these–and so many more, PRAYER is a major part of it.

Praying is, in essence, communication with our Father. It involves real, honest sharing of what’s on my heart and mind, what my concerns are, what my desires are, etc.

However, real ‘prayer’ also involves listening to God. It involves quieting myself and asking God to clarify His heart, His desire and His will.

Very often, it brings me to a specific Scripture, or a Truth that He wants to emphasize in my life.

Recently, it’s been a lot about the Fatherhood of God, and enjoying that relationship. Father and child praying

As a dad myself, I remember how wonderful and beautiful it was, when my kids were little, to have them snuggle up next to me and pray. Often, I would lead them, but increasingly as they got older, they would express their own thoughts. How wonderful it was for me to hear their young hearts, and hear them praying for their relatives and friends, their concerns, and expressing their love to God.

This childlike communication–innocent, real, and genuine–was beautiful…and that’s exactly what God is looking for from us.

We need not ‘dress it up’ or make it more ‘formal’. We can come to Him without notice, and go freely into His presence* when needed.

The Scriptures say, after all, that For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-17)

and again,“Because you are his [children], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

The point is that God, in His love and mercy, has adopted us as His children. He wants us to be close to Him.

He wants to knock the walls down between us and Himself. He’s been doing that through Jesus. Hebrews 4: 15-16: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Because of His love and grace, God sent Jesus to pay for our sin.

Because of Jesus we have been forgiven and adopted by faith into God’s family.

Because He is risen and interceding for us, we have access to God.

Let us keep that access going by regular, authentic, honest and deep communication. Your Heavenly Father will love that!

 

 

*I’m aware–we’re alwaysin His presence, since God is omnipresent.