Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Transformation Through Genuine Love

“Transformation Through Genuine Love”
Romans 12:9 NLT-Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT- If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What I am about to share is very hard for us to hear, but it is what the church needs today as a reality check.  The one place people should experience love and compassion the most is sadly too often the one place where people feel the most criticized, hurt, rejected, judged and shunned.  This is a heartbreaking, terrifying truth and it should serve as a huge wake-up call for us who claim to follow Christ.  How have we managed to stray so far from God’s intention of what the church should be? 

So many people have been turned off and continue to be turned away from ever darkening church doors because of people who claim to be Christians, but do not genuinely love one another.  This breaks my heart and I’m guilty as charged as well.  I know this makes many of us squirm, but it is the tough pill of truth to swallow.  We should be all about God’s love. 

Throughout my years of life, I have lived many places and attended many churches.  Out of all of my years in the church, both volunteer and paid ministry, I have noticed a common problem that comes up frequently and it is the issue of genuine love getting pushed aside while petty differences take over.  I have seen so much hurt in the body of Christ through the years and it breaks my heart because God wants us to work together to be united to love one another.  

Paul explains that we can be busy doing so much for God, but if we do not do so with love, then it’s all for nothing.  Love must be the root of all these things we do in service of God’s church.  If we have not love, we’ve completely missed the point. 

The world is desperate to see us living a genuine love for one another and not just claiming to love God and love others.  Love must be our mission.  Genuine, authentic, real love that comes from God and should shine through us as believers. 

Don’t just pretend.  Really love people genuinely. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Transformation Through Complete Surrender

“Transformation Through Complete Surrender”
Romans 12:1-2 NIV
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

All of us have a natural desire to be in control of our lives.  We don’t like when things around us seem out of control.  We tend to spend a lot of time and energy to make sure that we’ve got everything under control or going as we like.  We do know that we should give God complete control of our lives, but we don’t often live this way.

Living our lives in worship to God involves completely surrendering to Him so that He can take control of our lives and do as He pleases with us and through us.  We are all guilty of falling to the daily temptation of conforming to this world.  The NLT says in verse 2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

We need a completely changed mindset.  If we desire a life of true worship, we will surrender our lives to God each day and long for nothing more and nothing less than living for Him.  We need to be transformed as we learn to serve Him with all we are.  This means completely giving up our ways and letting Him take over and redirect our path constantly. 

We initially say we want this, but so often stop Him from this transformation because we want control.  If we want true worship in our lives, we cannot be in control at all.  By becoming a living sacrifice for God, this is true worship.  It’s more than anything we just do in a church service.  It is about how we live our lives every day to serve Him. 

Real transformation comes through true worship as we seek to love God with every part of who we are.  It is vital that we be completely sold out to God in every way so that our lives become controlled by Him.  If we seek to be completely transformed, God wants us our heart with no reservations. 

Do we really seek to be transformed by Him so that we fully worship?

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Greatest Rescue Story

“The Greatest Rescue Story”
Psalm 13:5-6 NLT
But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.

We all enjoy hearing stories of people who are rescued from different situations.  Whether it’s stories we hear from people directly, read about online or see on the news, we like to listen to stories of people who went from a bad situation to being rescued and their lives being saved.

When I was a kid, I remember watching “Rescue 911” on TV and I really enjoyed the stories of the extreme situations people were involved in and how they were helped.  We are often so drawn to stories of people being rescued, no matter what the situation involves.  Often times these stories involve much drama and pull our emotional heart strings to leave us teary-eyed or with tears streaming down our faces. 

Through the years, I have found myself drawn to stories of people being rescued and the extremity of those situations.  Some of them leave us with a gasp as we listen or watch the story unfold.  It can really take our breath away as we enjoy hearing the great end to a rescue story. 

As much as we enjoy hearing stories of great rescues, let us never forget the greatest rescue story as Jesus came to save our lives.  Do we hold tightly to this truth and cherish it in our lives more than anything?  He rescued us from a life of doom.  He gave His life in order to rescue us from the sin of our lives.  What an amazing rescue story! 

Do we rejoice each day for all that He has done for us?  Sometimes I think we tend to become more amazed at the stories we hear about earthly rescues than of the greatest rescue of Jesus.  Why do we allow ourselves to become so drawn to the other stories and so less drawn to His rescue story?

I know that I so often let myself become drawn in more to those stories and I take for granted His rescue in my life.  It can become so “commonplace” and I don’t want that to happen.  I’m sure it happens to many of us.  We become so used to this story and we tend to get drawn in to the other stories we hear more.  This is not to downgrade the severity or the triumph of these stories we hear.  They are wonderful to hear about.  But how much are we thankful of the rescue Jesus made in our lives?

The greatest rescue story is what Jesus did for us!  No other rescue story even comes close!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Lord, Teach Us The Brevity Of Life

“Lord, Teach Us The Brevity Of Life”
Psalm 90:12 NLT
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

I think we would all completely agree that we want to grow in wisdom each and every day.  I think it would be safe to say that we also agree that we should realize more that our time here on earth is not guaranteed from day to day.  However, the way we live our lives often shows that we just expect each day to come like it always does. 

As this new year begins, I think about this passage and how I need for God to make me realize the precious moments of life and to understand that each day is a gift and that I’m not promised tomorrow.  I need to make the most of each day and not waste the moments God gives me. 

Lord, teach me to realize the importance of the moments with my spouse.

Lord, teach me to realize the importance of the times I have with my kids.

Lord, teach me to realize the importance of the opportunities I have with my co-workers.

Lord, teach me to realize the importance of the moments with my friends.

Lord, teach me to realize the importance of unexpected moments of witnessing to people I don’t know.

Lord, teach me to realize that life is not about me and I need to focus on blessing others.

Lord, teach me to realize that each day is a gift from you and I need to do my best to make the most of the time I have.

As this new year continues, I encourage all of us to make the most of the opportunities each day that God gives us.  It is easy to get busy with our schedules and forget about the fact that we are not promised tomorrow.  God has given us today and He wants us to grow in wisdom as we learn to take advantage of the moments He gives us to bless others. 

I know that I definitely need to realize the brevity of life!  I get so focused on my own agenda often and forget that I need to stop and make the most of the moments God gives me with other people. 

Lord, teach us the brevity of life.

Monday, December 30, 2019

As Real As it Gets

“As Real As It Gets”
1 John 4:9-10 NLT
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

When we find certain deals advertised, we often wonder what the “catch” is and if the advertiser is really offering something real and legit.  These days, we’re often very skeptical about any advertisement that offers a deal that seems too good to be true.  The offer at first may seem very appealing, but the more we think about it and research, we often come to find out it’s a scam.

I have been disappointed to hear of so many scams in our world today.  We want good deals, but they are so hard to come by when so many places are trying to rip us off.  We want to find a good deal that doesn’t have any strings attached.  We want a real deal.  We want people at places of business to be honest with us as they try to sell good bargains. 

We are all victims of some kind of scam or bogus deal that someone has offered to us at one time or another.  We get frustrated when people aren’t honest about what they are offering us.  We want something real.  When we are offered something, we want to know the offer is legit. 

With all this skepticism circulating around trying to get good deals and being promised something of value, I am very thankful and grateful that God offers us a love that isn’t a gimmick.  I am thankful that God’s gift of love and salvation is not filled with “catches”.  He has given His life for me and loves me unconditionally.  I am glad I don’t have to worry about any small print that I have missed and might be surprised by later in our relationship stating certain contingencies.  He has and always will be genuine and very real. 

I have been burned so many times in life by people who say they want to offer me something real, but in reality turns out to be another gimmick. God is always real and genuine and will never let me down or disappoint me.  I may not always understand His ways and I often tend to get frustrated at some things that He allows to happen.  However, I know that He truly loves me and always wants the best for my life in Him.

God is the real deal.  He always has been and always will be.  When all other things and people fail you, He won’t.  When others try to scam you, God won’t.  He isn’t out to try to push you into anything.  He’s genuine and sincere.  His Word is full of the promises He has made to so many people and also to you and I. 

God’s love is as real as it gets.  This is real love and nothing will ever compare!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Are We Thrilled?

“Are We Thrilled?”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 92:4 NLT
You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!  I sing for joy because of what you have done.

We spend a lot of time in our lives finding ways to be thrilled, don’t we?  There are so many ways and circumstances where we find ourselves being thrilled in one way or another.  Movies can give us thrills.  Going on certain trips can give us great thrills.  Seeing a great sunrise or sunset can give us great thrills.  Or how about going to an amusement park?  You sure get great thrills from those!  I grew up loving those trips.  The faster and crazier the ride was, the more I loved it! 

We live our lives looking for ways to be thrilled.  May of us are thrill-seekers!  How many of you are storm chasers or just really like seeing storms come into your area?  I have always been a storm adrenaline junkie!  There’s just a rush that comes over me when the sky turns dark and the wind blows.  When everyone else is taking cover, I want to be out in the action!

I read this passage the other day in the NLT and I hadn’t considered before the words, “You thrill me, Lord.”  Think about that phrase for a few moments and let those words sink in.  Does the Lord actually thrill us?  With all that He has done for us and continues to do, are we really thrilled?  Do we awake each morning just feeling thrilled about all that He will do in the day?  Do we wake each day with joy in our heart just waiting to see what He will do in our lives?

This time of year, we seem to be thrilled with all the festivities of the Christmas season.  We are thrilled with snow, with the lights, with the hustle and bustle of shopping.  We get thrilled with all the baking and parties.  We get into a lot of thrill feelings and it is all very fun.  However, are we so full of the thrills of what surrounds us that we totally miss the greatest thrill of being filled with God?  We can get so full of everything going on around us that we forget to be thrilled by the very One who made us and created everything for us to enjoy. 

Do we live for more of the thrills of the world or for all that amazing things God does for us? 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

More Than Thankful

“More Than Thankful”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:11-13 NLT
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

It is that time of year where people will be traveling to gather together with family and friends to share in the festivities of eating lots of food and watching football.  Many people will sit around the table and take some time sharing who and what they are thankful for.  It is a great opportunity to take some extra time off work and be around people you might not spend too much time around on a regular basis.

This time of year, we see commercials on TV, hear songs on the radio and see ads in various places about being thankful.  This is absolutely great to be reminded to be thankful.  However, these past couple of weeks, I could not help but think a little deeper and really ponder what it means to be thankful. 

As I have thought more about this, I have to wonder if expressing thanks is enough.  For many of us, we do share that we are thankful for things and people that we care about and love, but when hard times come, we seem to not express our thanks as much as we endure various trials.  It is easier to be thankful when most things are going well for us.  It is much harder to express a thankful attitude when life is not going so well.  Simply saying we’re thankful is easy. 

I really think we need to be more than thankful.  It is deeper than just taking time to say that we are thankful for different things and people.  It is more about being content, grateful and learning to find joy in what God provides when things are both good and bad.  This has been on my heart the past couple of weeks and I just kept thinking of the phrase “more than thankful”.  It was like God was laying on my heart the need for more than just saying “thanks”.  Again, being thankful is great, but it goes deeper than that.  Are we thankful, grateful and content every day?

Let these words from Paul sink down deep inside of you.  Through the years of his life, Paul learned how to be content.  Through his various experiences, he truly learned what it means to be content.  He wasn’t just thankful when he received nice things from others or when people were cordial to him.  Paul learned to not let his emotions dictate whether he was thankful at certain times. He learned how to be content and express his thankfulness because God always provided what he needed.

Are we going to be like Paul and be consistent in our thankfulness, gratefulness and contentment no matter what life throws at us?