Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Negative Challenge

“The Negative Challenge”
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Paul talks to the church in Ephesus and encourages them to be careful in what comes from their mouth when they speak.  Paul is clear that nothing discouraging or negative should come from them and it’s an encouragement for us as well. 

Here is the two-fold challenge to think, pray about and put into action everyday.  The first part of the challenge is: Be negative-free for at least one whole day.  For one day, don’t say anything negative to anyone or about anyone or anything.  This is a difficult challenge for us because we’ve become accustomed to this so often in our lives each day. 

The second part of the challenge is: Encourage others often.  It seems so easy for us to go through our days and not be encouraging to other people.  We often get so focused on things we don’t like and people who annoy us that we forget that people need encouraged.  When we are treated wrong by someone, it’s very hard to be nice back to them because we feel wronged.  We feel they don’t deserve to be treated nice in return. 

This is a challenge I feel so many of us need in our lives.  Often times, we get so negative and it becomes something we do without thinking too much about it.  We complain and talk discouraging toward others without realizing how much we are doing so.  If we want to be Christ-like to others and share His love with a lost world, we must be more aware of how we talk toward others and focus on being uplifting with our words. 

This challenge is “The Negative Challenge”.  Being negative-free and encouraging others often.  Are you up for it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Real & Genuine Love To Others

“Our Real & Genuine Love To Others”
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:11-12
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God: but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Last week, I shared the couple verses prior about how the love of Jesus is real and genuine and not filled with “catches” or “gimmicks”.  As He showed us this love by dying on the Cross for us, we also need to imitate this love to others.  We need to strive to be the best representation of His love to others. 

His love is real and genuine, but is our love to others just as real and genuine?  Do we look at other people in our daily lives and desire to love them as Christ called us to love them?  Or, do we show resentment for things they do toward us instead?  We must learn to be very careful in how we respond and react to what others do to us.  No matter what they do, they still need to see the love of Jesus Christ shining through us whatever our response is toward them.  Yes, we can feel angry or frustrated at what they have done, but in our response and how we deal with what they have done, we still are called to love. 

When I think of how hard it is to love someone else who is treating me wrong, I need to remember Jesus going all the way to the Cross for me and the real and genuine love He showed for me.  He was treated far worse than I have ever been in my whole life.  His response to others was of love and compassion. 

So, as we go through our daily lives, we need to examine ourselves and ask if we are being real and genuine toward others.  Are we determined to show God’s love, no matter how hard that may be at times?  Loving one another is often hard to do because we are all so different from each other.  We get on each other’s nerves and we rub people the wrong way.  This is called life.  However, we are always called to show His real and genuine love in all we do. 

Whether we are trying to work out a conflict with someone or just doing our best to show God’s love to people around us, our love needs to always be real and genuine, just like Jesus.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

His Proof Of Real & Genuine Love

“His Proof Of Real & Genuine Love”
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:9-10
This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

In a world where there are so many scams, con artists, gimmicks and “catches”, we want to see something that is genuine and real.  It seems everywhere we go, there’s someone or some program promising us a sweet deal on something, but then to find out it’s not real or genuine.  It’s just a way for someone or a group of people to get our money.  We get burned and we get hurt from those things and it makes us very cautious about believing people who try to convince us that they are being genuine.

We live in a world where people want proof that something is real and genuine.  Why would we not want proof?  We don’t have time for people or groups to waste our time trying to get us to buy into something that is just going to waste our time or rob us of something that is special to us.  We can’t stand that.  No one enjoys that.  If we see something advertised or someone tries to explain how wonderful of a deal we can get, we want proof it’s real and genuine.  We’re hesitant to buy into whatever it might be until we know for sure it’s a “real deal”. 

It’s often very hard sometimes to really tell whether we’re getting something real and genuine or getting ripped off of our time and money.  When I consider all the things that this world tries to pass by us and the “catch” so many tie to what they offer, I am so thankful that God gave us a gift and proved He did love us.  Unlike the world and what it tries to offer us, we have the greatest and most real and genuine offer ever presented. 

God truly presented His love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is a real offer of true life.  It’s not a gimmick.  It’s not a “catch”.  There’s no hidden agenda behind it.  It’s not about what we have done or could do.  It’s all about what He did for us and how very much He loved us.  God sent us a gift that we might choose to accept and then live fully for Him.  Jesus Christ is the most precious gift anyone could ever have.  He offers hope.  He offers real life.  He offers unconditional love. 

You want real proof that He loves you?  Just look at what He did on the Cross.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Search Me & Change Me

“Search Me & Change Me”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

What a powerful passage and psalm from David!  This is a deep cry out to God and a longing that he expresses to his Father to know him and turn him away from any way that does that please the Father.  As I read this verse, I thought about the sermon a couple weeks ago regarding our motives for the things we do and say to others.  Sometimes, our motives are hidden and we can fool many people.  But, we can never fool God.  He knows us and wants us to be led in His way.  He knows we are human and we will chase after what our flesh desires.  However, we must realize that our flesh desires will not bring any eternal peace.

What’s your motive? If God searched your heart and your thoughts, would He find selfish motives or would He find a servant’s attitude and desire in all that you do?  I’m often fighting selfish desires within.  I find myself knowing I need to be a good minister for my congregation, a good husband to my wife and a good father to my children.  However, so often, my motives aren’t pure and right.  I want what I want and that’s how it is!  In these times, I desperately need to ask God to cleanse me from these ways and thoughts and seek him in all I do.  My desire should be to serve Him by serving others and being the role model He has called me to be.

We would most likely all agree that we desire for God to change us and make us more like Him, but the actual change sometimes is a great challenge for us to accept.  The change is usually never easy, but the growth it brings to our lives is wonderful.

Have you asked God to search your mind and heart lately?  Have you asked Him to show you what ways you need to change to follow Him more passionately?  If we pray that way, we need to be ready and willing to change to follow Him with more commitment.