Wednesday, November 13, 2019

NOW WE SHINE DIMLY


Matthew 5:14a
“You are the light of the world.”

                As I walked into the office this morning, the full moon hung in the western sky. It was large and distinct, but its light was obscured by a gray haze. I have been out at night when there was a full moon and it has been so bright that it cast shadows on the lawn. This morning the moon was clearly visible, but its light was dimmed by the wispy clouds of a fall sky.

                In many ways, we are to be like the moon. The moon does not have any light of its own. Its light is a reflection of the light of the sun. In a similar way, we do not have any light of our own. We are instead to reflect the light of Christ into our world. Jesus is the source of our reflected light.

                When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

                Jesus came into this world to shine the light of God into our lives. That light has the power to transform us. It frees us from the dominion of spiritual darkness. It opens our eyes to the reality of who we are and who God is. Not everyone likes what they see, so they retreat into the darkness. But those who embrace the light of Christ are transformed by it.

                When we put our faith in Christ, we become a kind of spiritual moon to His sun. Jesus gives us His light so we can shine in our world. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

                Most often, we are like the moon this morning. The light of Christ within us is obscured by the gray haze of sin in our lives. Although our heart’s desire is to shine the light of Christ into our immediate world, our sin clouds the picture. There are times when the haze clears and we shine brightly. There are times when the dark clouds of sin completely obscure the light of Christ. But most of the time we live somewhere in between.

                Although I do not believe that the haze of sin will even be completely eliminated from our lives until we stand complete before God in heaven, I do know that we can decrease its intensity. As we become aware of our sin and deal with it before God, our light shines brighter. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

                God continues to shine His light into our hearts, which in turn brightens our entire being. But we are still imperfect vessels containing His light.

    For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

                The good news is that the longer that we walk with Christ, and the more we yield to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, the more our lives will shine for God in our world. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

                This morning the moon was large and full and shining, even though there was a haze in the air. God wants us to be His full moons reflecting the light of Christ in our world, even if, for now, we shine dimly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

LIVING IN THE WORLD, NOT FOR THE WORLD


John 17:15
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

                What does it mean for us to live in the world, not for the world? When God created the world, it was perfect in His sight. He placed humanity into this perfect world and invited them to fully enjoy all that He created. The physical world was God’s gift to humanity; a tangible expression of God’s love. When sin came into the world, the tangible world became corrupted. The relationship between God and humanity was damaged, and consequently the relationship between humanity and God’s tangible gift was damaged.

                As Paul tells us in Romans 1, humanity substituted created things for the Creator and therefore put themselves at odds with God. The created world took a place in people’s lives that it was not intended to have. Not only was God excluded from the picture, the very things that God created for humanity’s enjoyment were corrupted.

                Jesus came into the world to restore a right relationship with God and with the world that God created. Through Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection He has redeemed not only humanity, but creation itself. When a person puts their faith in Jesus, they are recreated. (2 Corinthians 5:17) As redeemed people, we now relate to God and His world differently. The gift of life on earth is restored to us, as well as the promise of life eternal with Christ for all of eternity.

                There is a struggle that we face as believers. Are we to completely deny this world and live only for eternity, or are we too fully embrace this life on earth as well as our hope in eternity? For me the latter is the correct answer. We are to live fully in this world without living for this world. Everything that we have and enjoy is a gift from God. If we constantly acknowledge that and give thanks to God for it, we can fully engage in this world. Knowing that God wants us to make the most of our journey through life, we can celebrate its joys and endure its hardships. As Paul says in Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

                God does not want us to live our lives with the attitude that we have too endure life until we get to heaven. He wants us to embrace the journey through life, which will make our experience in heaven that much richer. If our focus is only on getting to heaven, we will miss all of the blessings that God intends for us now.

                I once knew a family whose idea of a vacation was to see how many miles they could drive in a week. They would stop only briefly along the way to possibly take a picture, then it was back in the car to get moving. Most of us would say, what a waste. What is the point of a journey if you don’t experience what is along the way? Yet, we can live our entire lives that way, if we are not careful. We can be in such a hurry to get to heaven that we miss the journey. The journey is important, otherwise why did God make us take it. If the only goal in life is making it to heaven, why doesn’t God just take us home as soon as we become believers? I know I am pressing the point, but it is possible for us to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.

                God has placed us on this earth for a reason. It was part of His original plan that we would delight in all that He created. We who are believers in Christ should enjoy this life more than anyone else. How we live this life matters to us and to God. It matters for now and for eternity. How tragic would it be if when we stand before God, He shows us all the gifts that He wanted to give to us, but that we missed because we were in a hurry to get to heaven.  

                There is truth in the phrase, stop and smell the roses. God created a beautiful, amazing world for us to enjoy. Each part of this amazing world points us to Him. Let’s not miss the gifts He offers to us every day.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God;
  the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

IN PLACE, OUT OF PLACE


Genesis 21:33
Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.

                In our monthly, men’s breakfast, we are watching a video series by Ray Vander Laan titled “Walking with God in the Desert.” The segment we watched this month focused on how God provides for desert people through different kinds of trees. One of those trees is the tamarisk tree.

                The tamarisk tree is very slow growing. It requires quite a bit of attention at the beginning to get it started. It is most often planted near places where people live. As one Bedouin man explained, we plant a tamarisk for our grand-children. Because it grows so slowly, the benefits of it will not be realized until generations after it is planted. So why plant one?

                The tamarisk tree has an extremely unique feature that makes it an ideal desert tree. It has a very high salt content in its leaves. Because of this high salt content, it captures the moisture from the air. During the heat of the day, this moisture slowly evaporates, making the shade of the tamarisk tree considerably cooler than other trees. Bedouin people love to plant these trees near to their dwellings for this reason.

                In Genesis 21, we are told that after Abraham had received God’s promise that he would inherit all of the land of Palestine, as an act of confidence in God’s promise, he planted a tamarisk tree. He knew that he would never benefit from that tree, but he was trusting God that one day his grand-children and great grand-children would.

                Vander Laan used this story to ask an important question. What are we doing today that will benefit generations to come? In what ways can we plant a spiritual tamarisk tree that will provide shade for those who come after us? In our “live for the moment” world, this is a question we should all be asking. As a follower of Christ, what am I doing today that benefit generations to come?

                But not everything about the tamarisk tree is positive. In North Dakota, the tamarisk tree is known as the salt cedar. It is an invasive species that can destroy a pasture. In the arid desert, the tamarisk tree is sparse and grows very slowly. In a fertile, well-watered land it can grow rapidly and spread. The problem with this is that because of the salt content in the tree it changes the soil around the tree, making it extremely alkali. Soon the soil can not longer sustain other forms of vegetation. It becomes a great place for salt cedar, but a bad place for everything else.

                In a spiritual sense, we can see that this is exactly what Satan has done in our world. He has taken things that God intended for our good and transplanted them into places where they should not be. What God intended for good becomes something that produces harm. Planted in the wrong place, these things act as invasive species, taking over the place and pushing out the good things that should be there. There is no better example than what has happened with human sexuality.

                God intended for human sexuality to be planted in the environment of marriage; the loving, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. Satan has ripped human sexuality from this positive environment and transplanted it into various other environments. The outcome has been broken, devalued people. Today, human sexuality has become an invasive species that seems to dominate our society, while pushing out God’s original design.

                Before we start casting stones, we need to realize that it is possible for each of us to plant a spiritual tamarisk tree in the wrong place. We can create a legacy that will have reverberating negative effects for generations to come.

                God warned us about this. In the Ten Commandments, God made it clear that if we plant our tamarisk tree in the wrong place it will have long lasting consequences. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

                As we make our way through life, we will have many opportunities to plant a tamarisk tree. If we are intentional, we can leave a positive legacy that will benefit generations to come. If we are unintentional, we may leave a negative legacy that will also affect generations to come.

Ephesians 5:15-16
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

   

   


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

WIND


John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

                The wind is howling outside of my office window. It began howling early last evening and continued throughout the night. It is a cold wind that cuts through a person. Tiny flakes of snow dance in the wind as it whips the trees and scatters their leaves.

                Wind is a powerful force, yet it is insubstantial. A person can not capture the wind or measure its volume. Yet the wind can transform a landscape. It sculpts the sand dunes of western Michigan and the farm fields of North Dakota. The wind has the power to tear limbs from trees or the roof off of a house. The wind can be harnessed to generate power, but it cannot be contained or controlled. The wind blows where it wants to blow and there is nothing we can do about it.

                The Bible has two words for wind. In Hebrew the word for wind is ruah. In Greek the word for wind is pueuma. The Bible uses these same two words to mean spirit. The Hebrews equated the wind with the breath of God. God was the one in control of the wind and therefore it represented the activity of God in the world.

                When Jesus was meeting at night with Nicodemus, as recorded in John 3, Jesus used a play on words when he equated the activity of the wind with the activity of the Holy Spirit. His play on words gives us some insight into the activity of the Holy Spirit in our world.

                Just as we cannot control the activity of the wind, so we cannot control the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, being God, is totally independent of human influence. The Spirit indwells every believer, but the believer does not control the Spirit. The Spirit is the moving force within the believer’s life; changing and transforming the landscape of his or her life.

                The Holy Spirit is the prime mover in the salvation and sanctification of the believer. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6) It is the Holy Spirit who is the agent of the new birth that Jesus told Nicodemus about.

                The “wind” of the Holy Spirit is still blowing through our world today. He is shaking up Christ’s church, with the purpose of purifying it and empowering it. He is awakening people all over the world to their need for a Savior, who is Jesus Christ. He is empowering believers to be salt and light in their communities. He continues to blow away the fog of unbelief and replace it with a spiritual clarity that allows those who place their faith Jesus to understand the deep truths of God.  

John 14:15-17,25-27
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


Friday, October 18, 2019

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN THE WINDOW


                As autumn has descended upon North Dakota, my walk to the office in the morning is more and more in the dark. I enjoy these crisp mornings as I follow my accustomed route through the neighborhoods of our little town. I was made aware recently that my daily journey is far from unnoticed. Several people have mentioned seeing me stroll past their house. Although it seems natural to me, they seem to think that I walk at a fast pace. I guess I have been walking with purpose.

                As the mornings grow darker, I have begun to observe some things that I had never noticed during the summer months. One thing is the number of homes where the glow of a TV is evident through the un-curtained windows. I don’t peek into the window to discern what is being watched, but the glow of the TV is obvious to anyone who is passing by.  

                The other day I caught a glimpse of something that took me by surprise. It was a totally different kind of light coming from the window. It wasn’t a TV on a far wall, but prominently displayed in the front for all the see. It was a lighted Christmas tree, adorned with tiny white lights. It is not unusual to see a Christmas tree in a front window in late November and December. It is odd to see one so prominently displayed in early October.  I don’t know the story behind this sight, but it has made me think.

                The focus of October, for better or for worse, is Halloween. Throughout our town there are multiple displays of pumpkins and round bales of hay decorated for this holiday. Our local café is decked out with spider webs and other symbols of the season. If my memory serves me correctly, there will be a parade of school children all dressed in their Halloween costumes in the near future. In the midst of all of this Halloween frivolity, a lighted Christmas tree stands in stark contrast.

                In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that, as His disciples, we should be lights in our community, standing out from the rest. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

                If I may take the liberty to paraphrase Jesus’ words, we are to be lighted Christmas trees in a Halloween world. Our lives should display the light of Christ in a world that too often prefers the darkness. Our light is to be openly displayed, not shrouded by curtains so that only a faint glow is visible.  The light of our faith should be prominent for all to see. We are not called to be a spotlight, blinding those around us. We are called to be a warm light that invites others into its glow.

                In a very short time, there will be many lighted Christmas trees in front windows. But I am impressed by the one that is there now. It reminds me that even though our world can be a dark place, the light of Christ can still penetrate the darkness at any season of the year, offering hope and love to all who will embrace it. So, I want to encourage you to put your ‘lighted Christmas tree” in the front window of your life.

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
   


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

PUTTING FEET TO OUR FAITH

John 5:6
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

                This morning in our men’s Bible Study we looked at the story of the invalid at the pool of a Bethesda, as found in John 5. As the story goes, this man had been an invalid for 38 years. It is implied that he spent most of that time at the pool of Bethesda. The reason that he was there was that it was believed that from time to time the angel of the Lord would come down and stir the waters. The first person to get into the water after the stirring would be healed. So this man spend his life trying to be the first into the pool, without success.

                Into this man’s story walked Jesus. For some reason, Jesus singled this man out from all of those who were there. Having compassion on this man, Jesus approached him with an odd question, “Do you want to get well?” On the surface, this seems like an insensitive thing to ask this man, but Jesus was probing for something deeper within the man. The man’s initial response was one of self-defense. He quickly explained why he was still in that place after so many years. He had no one to help him get into the water. Someone else always got there first.

                Then Jesus did something that the man never expected. Instead of chiding him for his lack of effort, Jesus simply told him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” This must have been said with such a commanding and compelling voice that the man did exactly what Jesus told him to do. When he did, he was instantly healed. This man’s reality was changed in an instant, an instant of faith.

                Most of us have things in our lives that we have struggled with for many years. As much as we want to be rid of these “afflictions” they persist. We feel trapped, just like the man at the pool. Over time we resign ourselves to this as the norm, that this is our reality and there is nothing we can do about it. For most of us, this is not a physical affliction but an emotional or spiritual one. It may be a poor self-image, or a deep-seated bitterness, or a critical spirit, or a negative habit. We have tried to break free from its bonds, but our efforts fall short and we find ourselves right back where we started.

                Into this situation, Jesus steps. He probes the depths of our soul with His penetrating question, “Do you want to get well?” He is really forcing us to consider the results of being free from whatever it is that binds us. At first blush, to be free sounds wonderful, but on further examination we realize that it means some significant changes in our life.

                The man at the pool had been an invalid for 38 years; probably the majority of his life. He had been totally dependent upon others to care for him. To be healed meant that he would have to take full responsibility for his life from now on. His entire world would be changed. Did he really want to embrace this new reality?

                The same question is posed to us. To be set free from our affliction means that we will have to change the patterns of our life. We will have to embrace a new reality, with new responsibilities. Do we really want to get well?

                Our first response when we hear Jesus’ question is to defend ourselves, just like the man at the pool. We begin to think of all of the reasons why we are the way we are. Maybe we blame our family for not setting the right example. Maybe we blame society for its negative influence in our lives. Maybe we blame God for allowing this thing to enter our life. Our first response is usually an excuse for why we cannot change.

                Jesus never argues with us. He never challenges our excuses directly. Instead, Jesus challenges us to trust Him and act in faith. Jesus didn’t address the man’s excuses, He simply told him that it was time to get up and walk. If the man had continued to give excuses for why that was not possible, he would have probably remained an invalid. But he did not. Instead, he took Jesus at His word and discovered that his faith had healed him.

                When we lay our excuses aside and act in faith, based on what Jesus has told us, we too can be healed. When we take Jesus at His word and trust Him enough to act in faith, amazing things can happen in our lives. He can and will free us from the things that bind us, if we will do what He commands us to do. He can replace bitterness with thanksgiving. He can replace a critical spirit with a spirit of compassion. He can replace a poor self-image with the amazing reality that we are loved by God. He can free us from a negative habit that controls our life with a positive habit that transforms our life.

                Jesus has the power to free us from whatever binds us, but He will not do this unilaterally. Instead, He invites us to participate in our healing by putting feet to our faith. The measure of our faith is the extent to which we are willing to pick up our mat and walk. We can make excuses and remain trapped by the pool, or we can act in faith and walk out into a new life.

Ephesians 4:20-24
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

EMBRACING OUR TRUE IDENTITY


1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

                I have a small pitcher that usually sits in a prominent place, in a china cabinet, in our home. It has a faded picture of Falmouth, England on one side. The glaze is cracked from age. On the bottom of the pitcher is a small piece of tape. On the tape is written “For David” in shaky handwriting. If I took this pitcher to an antique dealer, he would tell me that it is of little value, but it is of great value to me. The reason for its value is because it belonged to my grandmother. It had belonged to her grandmother before her, and she had brought it with her from England to America. Finally, she lovingly passed it on to me. Its value is not wrapped up in what it is, but in whose it was.

                Many of us struggle with our sense of self-worth. We live in a society that has done everything it can to artificially boost the self-image of people. Yet many people see it for what it really is; a façade. When they look in the mirror, they still question their value. There is a hollow place in their soul that all of the pats on the back and participation ribbons can never fill.

                I understand what it means to have a poor self-image. I struggled with my self-image for many years. What changed that for me was understanding that my value is not wrapped up in my looks or my abilities, but is found in my relationship with Christ. For me, it was one thing to know that intellectually and a completely different thing to embrace it fully.

                Peter wrote to a group of people who were struggling with their identity. Because of the circumstances of their lives they were discouraged. Peter took their eyes off of their circumstances by reminding them of their true identity in Christ. Peter’s ancient words can be a great encouragement to us as we struggle with our sense of worth.

                In Christ, we have been chosen by God. Do you remember what it was like in school to not be chosen, or to be the last one chosen. When I was in high school, we put on a musical every year. Every year I would try out for a speaking part in the musical. Every year I would make the call backs. And every year I would not be chosen for one of the speaking parts. I had to settle for being in the chorus.

                For many years, I felt like I was spiritually trying out for some place in God’s kingdom. But I never felt good enough or worthy, so I just tried harder. One day, I realized that I can stop trying to impress God. Through placing my faith in Jesus, I was already chosen. Something I could never earn on my own was given to me freely. God had chosen me for His team. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

                In Christ, we have significance. No one wants to be insignificant. We spend a great deal of our lives trying to prove our significance to others. The harder we try, the more illusive it becomes.

                Peter reminds us that, in Christ, our lives are of great significance. As a royal priesthood, we are bridge builders between God and people, between heaven and earth. We have been given a significant role to play in our world. We are Christ’s ambassadors, representing Christ and inviting others to join us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

                In Christ, we are unique in our world. It is ironic that in our attempts to be unique from a worldly perspective we conform to be just like everyone else. This is most obvious in the world of fashion. An attempt is made to create something new and fresh, something unique. But soon, what started out as unique becomes commonplace. It can even become generic in a short amount of time.

                Peter tells us that we are a part of a holy nation. The term holy means to be set apart for special use. As followers of Christ, we have been set apart from the world to be truly unique. The exciting thing about this for me is that God does not make us cookie cutter versions of one another as the world does. He instead makes each of us unique in our own right. We are knit together through our faith in Christ, but we are each a unique masterpiece of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10)

                In Christ, we belong to someone special. Every human being has an innate desire to belong. We try to fulfill that longing in a multitude of ways. We join a sports team or a musical group. We join service clubs or social action committees. We are always looking for a place to fit in and to be accepted. Often in our efforts to be accepted, we will compromise our values to conform to the group.

                Peter reminds us that in Christ we belong to God. He has claimed us as His own. We have become His possession, a part of His family. He has placed His seal upon our lives, claiming us as His very own. We are no longer outsiders looking in. No matter what our circumstances or situation in life, our value is secure because we belong to the King of Kings. (1 John 3:1)

                When I was in high school, during my senior year, I finally earned my varsity letter. That was a huge deal for me. As soon as I was informed of this reality, I ordered a varsity jacket (which I still have). As soon as that jacket arrived, I wore it as much as possible. I wore it because it said that I belonged.

                Peter tells us that when we fully embrace our identity in Christ, we should eagerly display it for all to see. This is not an obligation or a duty. It is a privilege. It is something to be celebrated. The more that we embrace who we are in Christ, the more our lives will become a celebration of His love and grace.

1 Peter 2:10
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

LIVING BY FAITH


2 Corinthians 5:7
We live by faith, not by sight.

                As I was walking to my office the other day, I reflected upon “seeing God” in the world around me. For a period of time, I had been very intentional about looking for God connections through the things that I observed as I walked along. What struck me the other day was that my daily trips through our community had become routine and I had stopped actively looking for God.

                Many people have a hard time “seeing God” in the normal routine of their lives. With no intention to do so, a person can walk through daily life as if God were not present. It is not that a person is denying the existence of God, but they do not recognize that God is walking with them. For many people, their life during the week is completely separate from their faith. They do not see the connection; therefore, they do not see God’s hand at work.

                As a pastor, I have often struggled with an inability to see any tangible results from my labors. Ministry becomes routine and loses its life and vitality. I want to know that I am making a genuine difference, but I cannot see it. There are so few tangible indicators that show me that what I am doing really matters. Then God will do something to open my eyes, and for a brief moment He lets me see.

                The other day, I had coffee with a missionary couple. They were sharing their story about how God had led them to the place where they were serving. Some of the things they said resonated with my own experience. When they asked me to share my story, I began to recount my ministry experience. As I reflected upon my own faith journey, I could see how God had used me in the past. I found myself getting excited as I recounted some of the highlights of my walk with God. What God was communicating to me was that, even if I could not see the value of what I was doing right now, He was still actively at work using me for His glory.

                As humans, we are tangible creatures. What is real to us is what we can see, touch, taste, hear. The spiritual realm often seems unreal to us because it is not tangible. It can seem irrelevant to the life we live day by day. But we are wrong, for we have been called to live by faith, not by sight.

                After Jesus resurrected from the dead, He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. They were overwhelmed by His presence and had a difficult time believing their very eyes. Unfortunately, Thomas, one of the disciples, was not present on that occasion. When the other disciples recounted their experience to Thomas, he was skeptical and resistant. He stated that he needed tangible proof to believe. Like us, Thomas wanted to guard himself against further disappointment and emotional pain.

                A week later, the disciples were all together again in the upper room. This time Thomas was also there. Just as before, Jesus appeared to them in tangible form. He specifically approached Thomas and offered him the tangible proof that he demanded. Thomas was overwhelmed and fell down before Jesus and worshiped Him. Jesus responded to Thomas with words that should challenge and encourage all of us who have put our faith in Him. Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

                Jesus was talking about us. He said that we would be even more greatly blessed because we believed in Him without tangibly seeing Him. Peter picked up on this when he wrote his first letter to the believers scattered throughout the Roman world. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

                Someday, we will see Jesus face to face, but until then we have been called to live by faith. Throughout our life journey there will be glimpses of God, as Paul said, like the distorted image in an imperfect mirror. These glimpses are given to us to strengthen our faith and keep us going. They also are given to us to remind us that our faith is in God and not in our experience. Throughout the ages, God’s promise to His people has always been the same. “I will be with you always.” In the routine of life, when our spiritual vision is dull, we can hang onto that promise. Whether we “see” God or not, He is always there. As followers of Jesus, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

RESILIENCE


James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

                It caught my eye as I walked home from my office. It looked out of place. It really should not have been there, but there it was, surround by concrete. It was a small plant emerging from a small hole in an otherwise sterile environment.

                Ever since my days as a biology major in college, I have been fascinated by the resilience of plants. They have an amazing ability to overcome obstacles and persevere. During one of my classes we took a field trip to an abandoned housing development. There were no houses, but the blacktop streets were in place, along with fire hydrants and street lights. What our professor wanted us to see was the ability of plants to reclaim land. Without the interference from people, the plants broke up the blacktop and recaptured the fields. They demonstrated amazing resilience.

                According to Psychology Today, “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” Just as the little plant surrounded by concrete continues to grow and thrive, so people who have developed resilience can overcome the many challenges of life. Psychologists have identified four characteristics that increase a person’s resilience.

- People who have a sense of autonomy, self-worth, good health, are more resilient.

- People who have a positive role in society and positive relationships are more resilient.

- People who develop the ability to problem solve, make goals, and take action are more resilient.

- People with a positive belief system that recognizes that there is good in all situations and that self-development is important are more resilient.

                As believers in Christ, we can rewrite these characteristics in relationship to our faith.

- Because our identity is wrapped up in Christ, we can be resilient. (Galatians 2:20)

- Because we are part of the body of Christ, we can be resilient. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

- Because we have been given a mission and purpose in life, we can be resilient. (Matthew 28:18-20)

- Because we have faith in Christ, we can be resilient. (John 3:16-18)

                The Bible does not use the word resilience to describe a person who thrives spiritually. Instead it uses the term perseverance. Perseverance and resilience are closely related. Both are essential for our spiritual growth.

                James tells us that we should look upon the trials of life as an opportunity to strengthen our resilience. Pushing through the trials of life actually makes us stronger people. But this happens only when we understand what is going on. Whether we are discouraged by trials or energized by them depends on our perspective.

                In 1 Peter 1, Peter reminds us that the trials of life are serving an eternal purpose. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

                The pathway to maturity leads us through the trials of life. If we give in to discouragement and give up on the struggle, we will remain immature in our faith. But if we persevere through our trials, we will grow in our faith and become mature in Christ.

                Our ability to persevere and be resilient in the face of trials and hardships is dependent upon our perspective. The more that we cultivate an eternal perspective, the more resilient we will be in life. Because we know that we are secure in Christ, we can not only survive in the face of trials, we can thrive.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

   


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

“The Here and Now” or “The Sweet By and By”?


John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

                Sometimes I struggle with the idea that the Christian life is all about eternity. So often the focus is all about getting to heaven after we die. It almost makes it seem like this life is just a holding pattern for the life to come; that it really doesn’t matter. Is the Christian life just about some hope for the future or does it have relevance to this present life as well?

                I want to suggest that our hope for the future should enhance and enrich our life in the present. When God created this world and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He intended for them to fully enjoy everything that He created. They were free to partake of all of the delights of this world, with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:15-17) When sin entered the world, the created order was twisted, but God’s plan that we enjoy His world remained. Our ability to fully enjoy this world was impaired, but not eliminated.

                One of the things that is a hindrance to people coming to faith in Christ is the idea that they will no longer be allowed to have fun or enjoy themselves. In an effort not to be tainted by the world, too many Christians have chosen to live austere, joyless lives. They have mistakenly concluded that to enjoy the pleasures of this world is sinful. In an effort to be holy they have become hollow and lifeless. They put all of their focus on “when we get to heaven” and miss the many joys that God has designed for them along the journey.

                It reminds me of a family that I knew long ago. The point of their vacations was to see how many miles they could travel in a week. They would travel thousands of miles, but never really stop to see and enjoy the things that they passed along the way.

                The struggle for believers is that many of the things that God designed for our pleasure have been corrupted by sin. To indulge in these things in their corrupted form leads a person to spiritual and personal death. Jesus addressed this in John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Satan has twisted the pleasures of this world into instruments of death. Jesus came to restore God’s original plan. He came so that we could rediscover this amazing gift of life that God has given to us.

                In this fallen world, we need godly discernment to know how to live an abundant full life. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul tells us that the key to living the abundant life that Jesus talked about is developing the proper perspective. It is not the stuff of this life that is evil, it is how we use it that makes it good or bad.

                Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

                There are several things to highlight in what Paul had to say. Paul does not condemn possessing the things of this world. He tells us to not be arrogant about it. Everything we have is a gift from God and is to be used for His glory. God has given these things to us for our enjoyment! The good things of this world are gifts from God. As James says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

                Paul also makes the point that God wants us to use wisely the gifts that He has given to us. Instead of hoarding them for ourselves, we are to share them with others. In reality, our enjoyment is increased through sharing what we have rather than being decreased. For example, Suanne and I thoroughly enjoy the North Shore of Lake Superior. It is one of our favorite places in the world. Because we enjoy it so much, we delight in sharing it with others. We delight in introducing them to all of the places that we have loved.

                Paul also makes the point that the way we use the gifts God has given to us in this life will make a difference in eternity. How we live our lives now matters. It matters for now and for eternity. When we live our present life with the right perspective, we truly experience life to the fullest. God does not want us to stoically endure life until we get to go to heaven. He wants us to fully engage in life, making the most of every opportunity He gives to us. The more that we delight in the world that God has created, the more glory and honor we give to God.

                Jesus wants us to live an abundant life both now and in eternity. The goal of eternity with Christ is an essential part of the Christian life. But let us not miss the delights of the journey that Jesus is leading us on to get us there.

                How then shall we live? We should live fully engaged in this present life, with our eyes always on eternity.


   


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IT’S RAINING….ACORNS!


Psalm 104:24,27-28
How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

                We have experienced a deluge of sorts recently. It has not been a deluge of rain but of acorns. I have never experienced anything like it. For several weeks it has literally been raining acorns. They cover my driveway and my deck. The other day I swept the deck clean of acorns and an hour later it was covered again. Yesterday I swept up four pails full of acorns from my driveway. When I take our dog outside at night, I can hear acorns hitting the deck and the nearby bushes. It is like being constantly under attack. The street in front of our house is plastered with crushed acorns. I have never experienced anything like it before.

                The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting that we are going to have a harsh winter. I cannot help but think that our acorn storm is somehow related. I have watched the squirrels in our back yard frantically gathering up the acorns to store away. I dumped my pails of acorns under some trees in our backyard where I hope the squirrels will be able to find them. They are better there than crushed under the tires of my car.

                We read an article the other day that stated that the abundance of acorns has nothing to do with the coming winter. Scientists, it said, have found no correlation between the production of acorns and the weather. But I have to wonder. People for centuries have watched the signs in nature to predict, with some accuracy, what the weather would be in the near future. Even the Farmer’s Almanac points us to the woolly bear caterpillar as a harbinger of things to come. If the caterpillar is an indication of a bad winter, why not the acorns?

                The Psalmist suggests that there is a force at work that scientists cannot explain or even understand. That force is the hand of God. As the creator of this amazing world, God is actively involved in sustaining it. The Psalmist reminds us that God provides food for the creatures that He has created. Acorns are just one example of that truth. They are durable, abundant, and nutritious. Many animals will seek out these small projectiles to sustain them during the winter to come. Could it be that God is providing an abundance of acorns this year for this very purpose?

                As human beings we have forgotten how dependent we are upon God’s provision. We have come to believe that we are in control and that we can provide for ourselves. God has allowed us to be productive, and so we have all that we need in abundance. But God can cut off that abundance at any time.

                Moses warned the people of Israel, before they entered the Promised land, not to become over confident in their own abilities. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:17-18)

                In many ways we have fallen into the trap that Moses warned about. We have come to believe that it is by our own strength that we have accomplished all that we have. We have forgotten that God is still on the throne and that He still is in control. In humility we need to confess our arrogance and give thanks to God for the abundance of His grace toward us.

                God has blessed us with abundance, not so we can boast in what we have, but that we might bring honor and glory to Him. All that we have has come from His hand. He wants us to use it for our good and His glory. The rain of acorns is a tangible reminder of God’s extravagant love and grace toward us.

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

   

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

STAY ALERT


1 Thessalonians 5:6
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

                Yesterday, Suanne and I took a little trip to International Falls, MN. It was a trip of 220 miles one way. It took us about four hours to reach our destination. Our motivation was that we have always wanted to visit International Falls and we will probably never be closer than we are right now. So, we jumped into the car at 8:30 AM and headed out of Cavalier, ND toward Minnesota.

                We had a great day, even though it rained for a better part of it. We had lunch in Warroad, the walleye capital of the world. We drove through Baudette and Roseau before we finally came to International Falls.  Along the way, we followed the Rainy River, which is the boundary between the US and Canada. While in International Falls we visited Voyageurs National Park, Rainy Lake, and the Largest Smokey the Bear statue in the world. On our way home, we stopped to see Lake of the Woods, although because of the overcast skies we could only see a little part of it. It was a full day.

                As we headed for home, the sky was overcast and dark. We drove in rain much of the way, sometimes hard rain. As the sun began to set behind the dark clouds, I knew that I would have to be particularly vigilant, because it was the time when the deer are on the move. We had seen several deer along the side of the road and so I knew that I had to keep my eyes open. Sure enough, as I was traveling at 60 mph, a deer appeared in my headlights, crossing the road in front of me. Fortunately, I saw it in time to hit the brakes and not the deer. Later, well after dark, two coyotes ran across the road in front of me as well. The last two hours of our trip I was constantly scanning the sides of the road watching for any sign of movement. We made it home without any trouble, but my muscles were pretty tense. The entire time, I was reminding myself to stay alert.

                As we travel through this journey of life, the Bible tells us to stay alert as well. If we lose our focus, or get distracted, we can easily run into trouble. Just as I had to watch for deer along the sides of the road, there are at least three things that the Bible tells us we need to be alert to.

                We need to be alert to the attacks of Satan. We all know what it means to be distracted while we are driving. We can get so enamored with the scenery around us that we fail to adequately watch the road in front of us. So it is with our journey of life. Satan is a master of distracting us from the dangers that lay in our way. Satan is always looking for an unguarded moment in our lives when he can spring and attack us. Peter reminds us that we need always to be alert to the danger that Satan poses.
    Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

                We need to be alert to the way we live our lives. We don’t need Satan to attack us in order for us to get off course. We are very capable of doing that ourselves. How many car accidents have happened not because a deer jumped out in front of the car, but because the driver was distracted by something within the car, like their cell phone or an animated conversation with a friend.  Many of the accidents that happen on our spiritual journey happen because we have lost our focus. We have become overconfident or overly fearful. We may have just become complacent and taken our spiritual life for granted. There are many ways that we can lose focus and hit the ditch spiritually.

                In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God so we can take our stand in this world. Part of being well equipped is staying focused. So, at the end of that passage he includes a call to stay alert.
    And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

                One of the greatest dangers while driving is being too tired and falling asleep. In a similar way, if we are not taking care of ourselves spiritually, we can become spiritually weary and fall asleep. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul challenges us to stay awake and alert as we journey through life.
    So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

                There is one other area where we need to remain alert, and that is concerning the return of Christ. The idea of Christ’s return has, in many ways, been placed on the back burner today. Yet, Jesus thought it was so important that He spent some of His last hours warning His disciples to be ready for His return. (Matthew 24-25)

                I have heard of cases of people falling asleep in an airport and missing their flight. In a spiritual sense, many people are sleeping, when it comes to preparing for Christ’s return. Although we do not know when Christ will return, we know that He will. Jesus challenges us to always be alert to that possibility. We are to live every day as if He could return today. We need to be ready for Him when He comes.
    Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33)

                As darkness descended last night, I did my best to stay alert to any danger that might cross our path. As spiritual darkness continues to descend on our world, we need to be all the more aware and alert.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

BROADENING OUR PERSPECTIVE


Mark 9:38-40
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”

                I had a great experience this past weekend. Every year for the past nine years, the people of our community have hosted a Christian music festival called Off the Charts. It opened on Friday evening and ran until noon on Sunday. The music was loud and the city park was packed. For three days the name of Jesus was proclaimed in a variety of ways. It culminated with a community worship service in the park. What impressed me the most was how the entire community came together for one weekend and celebrated Jesus.

                I have never been a concert goer. I had a negative experience when I was in seminary that soured me on “Christian” concerts. I have harbored some negative feelings about musicians who used their popularity to espouse their personal theology. I have struggled with how, in general, as a society, we allow musicians and actors to direct the course of our lives. I have been all too quick to chalk it up to 2 Timothy 4:3. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

                One of the things this past weekend reminded me of was that God uses many different approaches and a wide variety of people with very different personalities to get His message across to our incredibly diverse world. I don’t have to be a fan of loud music and smoke machines to see that God can use that as a way of reaching a particular group of people.

                I have been rereading Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne. The main point of his book is that we fall into the trap of being a Pharisee when we begin to judge others by our standards and not God’s. God has created each of us differently. Some of us like classical music, some like country music, some like rock and roll. Some of us prefer loud and boisterous, while others prefer quiet and subdued. Some of us respond better to the KJV, others to the NIV, and still others to the ESV. Not everyone shares the same preferences, yet God is pleased with all of us who claim the name of Jesus.

                This very issue came up one day as Jesus and His disciples were traveling around doing ministry. John came across a man who was casting our demons in the name of Jesus. John immediately tried to put a stop to that because “he was not one of us.” Jesus countered John’s exclusive approach to ministry by telling him not to stop the man, “for whoever is not against us is for us.”

                How often have I judged someone else’s ministry in a negative light because he was not one of us? Most of us are very quick to write off those who don’t worship like we do, or sing like we do, or use the same words as we do. Yet Jesus reminds us that He uses many different people with different approaches to reach this world with the Gospel.

                The Apostle Paul was probably the master at adapting his approach to his audience to gain the greatest impact. He constantly challenged the status quo in order to get the message out to as many people as possible. Paul was willing to adapt his method in order to better communicate the message.

                Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

                It is all too common for those of us in the church to waste our energy judging how other groups do ministry, instead of focusing on proclaiming the Gospel to the best of our ability. Instead of casting stones at those who do ministry differently from us, we need to link arms with them. I am not suggesting that we water down the Gospel. What I am suggesting is that there is more than one God-pleasing way to get the job done.

                This last weekend was good for me. It reminded me that I can celebrate what God did even if it was not my preferred style. I don’t have to be enthralled with the contemporary Christian music scene to appreciate that God is using it to reach the hearts of so many.

Luke 9:49-50
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
 "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

  
 


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

GOD’S GRACE


Matthew 5:45b
    He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

                It is raining today. For the people of northern North Dakota that is a blessing. We have had a very dry second half of the summer. Our lawns are brown and the farmers are concerned about the crops. Today’s steady rain is the very thing we need. For us it is a real blessing.

                The people who live in southern North Dakota and Southern Minnesota have a different perspective. They have had an extremely wet summer. The sight of more rain is not greeted with joy. Instead of seeing the rain as a blessing, they see the rain as a burden.

                We all have a mix of responses to rain. When there is too little, we long for more. When there is too much, we long for less. We want rain to keep our lawns green and the crops growing, but we don’t want it on the weekend when we have plans. The farmer prays for rain, while the family going camping prays for dry weather. When it comes to rain, you cannot please everyone all of the time.

                The Bible uses rain as a symbol of God’s grace. It represents both God’s general grace and His specific grace. God’s general grace is His provision for all humanity regardless of their faith. God’s specific grace is reserved for those who put their trust in Him.

                In both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, rain is seen as a blessing from God for those who faithfully trust Him.  

Leviticus 26:3-4
    If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15
    So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-- then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

                For a people who lived close to the land, rain was a matter of life and death. If they did not get timely rains, they could be faced with genuine hardships. As the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, God told them that, if they remained faithful to Him, He would provide the rain that they needed at the proper time. It was a tangible symbol of God’s grace to them.

                God also uses rain as a way of showing His grace to all humanity. When the rains come, they do not just fall on the field of the righteous, but on the field of the unrighteous as well. Although God could withhold the rain from them, He chooses not to do so. Instead, He choses to bless all people, with the intent of drawing them to Himself.

                Jesus used the grace of God, in the form of rain, to instruct us about how we should relate to those around us. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus makes a radical statement about God’s grace and our relationship with others.

    “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 sons 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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

                Jesus used rain as an expression of God’s extravagant love and grace toward all people. Although God has the right to withhold His grace from the unrighteous, He choses not to. Instead, He showers His grace upon them in very tangible ways. He calls us to do the same thing. Instead of seeing people as our enemy, as someone to oppose, we are to see them through the eyes of God’s compassion. When we respond to our enemies with grace, we have the opportunity to win them over.

                Paul makes it clear that the best way to overcome an evil person is to surprise them with grace.
    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
    "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
        if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

                Jesus said that when we respond to our enemies with grace, we reflect the glory of God and demonstrate that we are truly His. To be like God is to take the unexpected path of grace. It is to show love and compassion to all people, even if they do not respond in kind. Many people will not understand our response. Some will see it as a sign of weakness. But, if we are consistent, what they think is weakness will clearly to be shown as strength.

                It is raining today. You may see the rain as a blessing or you may be disappointed by the rain. Whatever your attitude is today, I want you to see the rain as a tangible symbol of God’s grace. It is God’s grace poured out on all of humanity. It is also a call for us to share that same grace with those around us.