Ever heard a voice in your head tell you you’re not good enough? You’re not alone. And it isn’t just a voice – it is an enemy…our enemy.
“I am not just speaking metaphorically when I refer to the enemy accusing you. It may just feel like you’re speaking to yourself in your head. But this is the enemy’s deception: “I am not here. It’s just your struggles.” This feels so defeating. And indeed, deep in your heart, the shame and self-contempt you feel are like the attack of a roaring lion. You hide the lion’s roar because the enemy has convinced you that it is just you.” — Restoration Year, John Eldredge
To understand the truth, we have to recognize we’re not hearing our own negative voice, but our greatest foe prowling around like a lion looking to devour us.This battle requires a daily commitment to fight back.
Invite the Holy Spirit to speak truth to you. In Romans 8:14-16, Paul affirms the Spirit will remind us whose we are. When our adversary suggests we aren’t good enough to belong to the Lord, it is a lie. If not, our enemy wouldn’t disguise himself as our own thoughts.
We need to know our pessimistic meditations are actually accusations offered from the Accuser (Revelation 12:10). Jesus refers to him as the father of lies…a liar (John 8:44).
So how do we combat such persistent, subtle attacks? We suit up!
“Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” -- Ephesians 6:13-18
We are in a eternal struggle for the souls of men, women and children. Be clear about our opposition. The devil is clear about who he is and his objectives. We should deal with him by:
- Putting on truth. Remember these accusations are from an enemy looking to destroy you. Find verses that remind you of the truth about who you are and who Your Heavenly Father is. Romans 5:2 indicates the penalty for our sins has been paid and we now can enter into the presence of the Lord.
- Next putting on body armor of righteousness. Romans 5:1 tells us we have been made right with God; the enemy is powerless to change what God has done for us.
- Wearing Peace as shoes; we walk in peace because of what Christ has done for us, we have peace with our Father, and in every situation.
- Grabbing the shield of faith. Arrows of accusation will come, and your faith will protect you from every fiery arrow.
- Taking up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The more we know of His Word, the more clearly we see the truth which sets us free and we will see the devil’s lies for what they are.
- Praying for our brothers and sisters, who are also under attack, and in need of our prayers.
When the doubts, fears and lies flood into your mind, remember we’re in a battle. Take heart! We will prevail because our Savior has overcome this world, death and our enemy. And until the day we see the final victory, suit up!
We’ve spent the last two weeks with this cute, mischievous, adorable, feisty and silly puppy. She’s not ours, but we’re taking care of her until Celia’s school auctions her to her new home. Some family is going to be so happy, and in way over their heads. And I’ll be heartbroken.
Pippa has been a constant reminder to pay attention to little things. You know, little things like keeping a door to a carpeted area shut, if you pick up a faint, bad smell – search for it, there’s something there and watching your fingers when you reach out to pet her (sharp little teeth).
She has also given us great little things like puppy breath, wild & crazy energy, lots of laughs watching her explore with her little legs and big paws. When I think I can’t take anymore of her feistiness, the little one crashes and sleeps in my arms.
Pippa has me thinking about little things. When we chase big things, we’re prone to miss the joy and life in little things.
It’s easy to be consumed with big things; big impact, big reputations, big promises, big funds, big changes and big results. We’re told bigger is better; more stores – more money — more success. Big Mac, Home of the Whopper, Biggest Inventory in Central Texas, Best Payload, Whatasize and a million more – in fact, McDonald’s claims – over a billion served!
Into this mindset of ours, we read the words of Jesus and our mind starts racing; multiplying for the sake of effectiveness.
““I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” — John 14:12 NLT
Yet, when we look at the life of Christ we see little things matter big. He went to the outcast woman at the well in Sychar. Not only was she a Samaritan, but she had a bad reputation. He dined with despised tax collectors rather than the religious elite. He walked into the lives of the sick, those cast aside in His day, touching and healing them.
Jesus fed over 10,000 with 5 loaves, and 2 fish, then He gathered all the leftovers, so nothing was wasted. He walked on water and brought dead people back to life. To top it all off, He was crucified, resurrected and appeared to as many as 500 of His followers. After all of this, only 120 followed His instructions and waited for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Can you imagine? Wouldn’t we determine that these results were a failure? At least we would think that this poor response needed a more effective strategy.
But, as Jesus promised, through the power of the Holy Spirit alive in those 120, the world has been and is being changed! The wonder of following Him is His Spirit directs us. He sees a much bigger picture than we do.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” — Ephesians 3:20 NLT
Haven’t you seen the big impact of little actions in your own life?
In sales, it was attention to little things that often won or lost large deals. I recall missing a small measurement causing a big problem. I also remember selling something insignificant as the first step to cracking a competitive account.
In ministry, I have seen the benefit of saying yes to little things. I’ve had great opportunities to care for those in our community by volunteering in our middle school office, filing tardy slips into student files.
It takes the pressure off of us to not worry about results, but just do the next little thing the Lord places before us. With the Holy Spirit in us is we don’t have to know all the answers, we can just be obedient.
Saying yes to something small might just land a puppy in your house, too! I know this, little things bring big joy, peace, and life.
Here we go again! Many of you participated in our study in the fall, and we are launching our spring study this Sunday. I would like for you to consider making this a part of your daily routine, for the next 11 weeks.
My desire in writing this study is simple. I want to see us, as a church, come to know more of Jesus Christ. I believe this happens best when we spend time with Him, in His Word, and discussing what we have read together, working out how we can apply it to our lives.
We identify as Christians, and this means all kinds of things in our culture. Being called a Christian may indicate to some the type of life you lead, how you vote, and to others it will mean you think you’re better than them or you hold to a strict set of values they don’t share.
However, the pure meaning of Christian is simply one who follows Christ. And if we say we follow Him, it is important for us to know all about Him, understanding what He did and said when He was here on earth. Much of this study will be spent reading stories about Jesus, considering what He did and who He is.
John is the fourth of the Gospels. The others (Matthew, Mark & Luke) are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. They follow a similar format, describing the life of Jesus, focusing on what Jesus did. John’s focus is different; he wants us to know who Jesus is. His purpose is described well in John 20:31 — “But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His name.”
So let me invite you on this adventure. If you believe in Christ already, you know time spent in His Word will increase your understanding and love of our Savior. And if you’re not sure about Jesus, this study will help you gain a better understanding of how much He loves you, and the lengths to which He has gone to have a relationship with you.
Each day, I will provide a verse or quote, to help us focus on the reality of heaven, and allow the Lord to begin to speak to us. It will be followed by the Scripture reading for the day, and questions to help process what we’re reading. Let me encourage you to spend this time, seeking not just to learn more about Christ, but to know Him.
We will hand out these studies at church each week, beginning Sunday, January 20th, and our groups will start meeting to discuss them the week of January 27th. If you’re not a part of a group, I’d love for you to join one. If you’re not at church, you can download a study, or follow along online. Resources for finding a group or downloading the study can be found at this link (www.acfnorthwest.org/john).
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My hope and prayer is that you will not only learn more about Jesus in the next 11 weeks, but you will meet with Him. I’m confident He is waiting to meet with you, as you spend time in His Word!
This Christmas break I watched Miracle again, about the incredible 1980 US Olympic hockey team. I remembered how thrilling it was at the time, when Russia, our common enemy, was finally defeated. This victory that stirs my heart, pales in comparison to the victory ahead of us.
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore…” — Revelation 20:1-3 NLT
Do you see how easy this will be? The one who has deceived, killed and destroyed us all through the ages, will just be seized, bound and locked into a bottomless pit. Over & done.
A few days ago, I finally finished my plan for 2018, to read through the New Testament. Two thoughts continued to persist, as I slowly read through Revelation over the last couple of weeks.
- Jesus is coming back. It will happen!
- The thing I can’t wait to see, our world without evil and without the presence of an enemy, will happen in a moment.
When he is finally thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:10), we will see a new heaven and a new earth descend. And we will be with the Lord forever.
He will make all things new. All things.
Our bodies, lives, minds previously taken apart by sin, disease, addictions, fears and worries will all be made new. Relationships destroyed by tragic deaths, divorce, and every other evil force will be restored. Victory!
His word declares no more pain, no more goodbyes and no more tears.
We will see the Lord. We will not need the sun, because His presence will illuminate everything. If you haven’t read Revelation, read it! If you don’t want to read the whole book, read chapters 19-22. The news isn’t just good – it is the most incredible victory to the most epic battle.
As I rewatched Miracle, my heart soared and my eyes filled with tears. Well, maybe they were only a little watery as I listened to Herb Brooks speech (performed by Kurt Russell – how the heck did he not get an Oscar for this?). Before they skate against the Russians, on the way to a gold medal, he tells his team,
“You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. Their time is over. It’s done.”
Friends, we were made to live in victory, in the presence of our Lord. Life started in a garden, but because of the grace of our Lord our final destination is His new city, where we will live in more blessing than we will ever be able to fully exhaust or absorb, for ever and ever and ever.
Doesn’t it give you an overwhelming hope to know this will happen? Jesus is coming for us, and He will defeat our enemy.
What about right now? Well, you should know that the One who will make all these things happen lives in us.
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.”— Romans 8:11-12 NLT
We will rejoice in the great victory coming, but we can have victory right now, too!
Remember our enemy who seems so formidable, will just be seized and thrown into a bottomless pit, and then a fiery lake, to be no more. When we face trials and temptations, let’s not forget the One who will conquer our enemy, is alive in us.
And like the guys on that team were born to play hockey, you were born for victory. Every one of you. This is your time.
An unlikely invite opened the door for me to spend this season with the Anderson Trojan football team. Coach Daniel Hunter asked me to serve as team chaplain. He wanted the team to see a man in their community invest time with them, without any expectation in return.
So, I attended practices, led a devotional each week, and was on the sideline for the games. If you know me, you know I loved this season with Coach Hunter, his staff and the team.
All of these great pictures provided by Philip Swann.
The Trojans were coming off a 1-9 record in 2017, and the seniors had seen their school post an 8-23 record, since they’ve been at Anderson. This was Daniel’s first year as head coach. He and his staff were focused on the mission of starting a new culture.
My role allowed me to just be with the team, to encourage them, laugh with them and cheer them on week after week. My goal was simple. I wanted to be sure they knew how God feels about each one of us. It was a crazy, great opportunity to share these simple truths with them:
- There is a God, and He isn’t out to get us
- In fact, He is for us!
- He cares about us & all the details of our lives
- He will come to us, in the midst of our mess, just as we are
- God loves each & every one of us
I had a front row seat to see a coaching staff turn a group of young men into a team. This 2018 Trojan team, with the help of their coaches, started a new culture. They competed in every game this season. They won 5 and lost 5, but they learned way more than can be measured in wins and losses.
Several times this season I heard Coach Hunter tell the team to “trust the process.” So many things are happening at once in a football game. It’s easy to be confused or overwhelmed. Over and over again, the coaches told the boys to simply “do your job.”
The team quit worrying about how they were going to beat teams they hadn’t beat before and they focused on blocking or tackling the one person in front of them. The game got smaller, and it wasn’t so overwhelming.
The same is true for us! We know God’s ways and thoughts are greater than our own, but we’re still prone to be anxious and worry about how all the details will come together. The good news is we can trust our Heavenly Father with our lives, our circumstances, and those we hold dear.
Like this team, we can trust the process:
- God is at work, in us and in our circumstances; “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” – Philippians 2:13
- We each have a significant role to play; “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7
- He takes our little role and orchestrates something with greater purpose; “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10
- Trust requires faith, and faith requires believing to see; “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” – Hebrews 11:6
Like this team trusted Coach Hunter and his staff, we can trust our Heavenly Father. Our focus can become small as we love the person He brings before us. We don’t have to change the world, we only have to be faithful to the nudge the Lord gives us today.
Your circumstances may seem overwhelming. I saw this staff and team start a new culture. God can do new things in each one of our lives, however unlikely, if we will just trust Him and His process.
“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God…” – Romans 4:20 KJV
On April 11th, 1970 the Apollo 13 mission took off from the Kennedy Space Center. Two days later, after one of the engineers in the Houston control room noticed a low-pressure signal, Jack Swigert executed a “cryo stir” designed to stir the tanks, in hopes of resolving the poor pressure reading.
Immediately, the oxygen tanks in the command module caught fire and the spacecraft began to shake. Jack Swigert made his famous comment, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Gene Kranz, the flight director for Apollo 13, pulled engineers and astronauts together to solve several insurmountable problems which should have led to NASA losing 3 astronauts.
Kranz’s belief challenged those on the ground to do whatever was necessary to get the astronauts home. Ed Harris played Gene Kranz, in motion picture “Apollo 13.” The film portrayed a scene where one engineer speaking to another lists the problems they’re facing: suspect parachute system, questionable heat shield, poor angle of trajectory and to top it all off, a potential typhoon in the landing zone.
As he relays this bad news to the other engineer, the other engineer agrees this could be the worst disaster in the history of NASA. Gene Kranz overhears them, and says, “With all due respect sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
It was his belief that drove the mission control team to succeed.
Stanford recently completed a study which suggests negative thoughts and complaining raises our level of cortisol, causing higher blood pressure and stress, which adversely affect our body. Conversely, gratitude is noted to reduce the level of cortisol, and lower our blood pressure, along with several other health benefits.
It does not surprise me that God made our bodies to function better when we believe. Well, what can we positively believe in that will hold up to the crushing pressure of our times?
Abram, who God renamed Abraham, is the spiritual father of those who have faith. God promised He would make Abram the father of many nations. Abram was 75 with a wife just as old and no child, when God made this promise. He asked Abram to leave his family home and go to a land He would show him. Abram and Sarai went.
He trusted the Lord to deliver on all He had promised. Abram did not look to his circumstances, but to the One who promised. Abram made mistakes. Eleven years later, he and Sarai wondered if God had forgotten His promise to them, since she had not had a child. She suggested Abram sleep with her servant Hagar, so they could have a child, and he did.
While Ishmael was not God’s plan to fulfill His promise, God still remained faithful to Abram. The Lord again confirmed His covenant. When Abram was 100, God provided Isaac, 25 years after He made His promise. Through Isaac, the Lord began to deliver on His promise.
Isn’t it incredible that though Abram made mistakes, Romans 4:20 (NLT) describes him as man who “never wavered in believing God’s promise?” He and Sarai were not perfect, but they followed God; they were obedient, and continued to trust God to do what they could not see. And God took Abram’s faith and made him the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16).
“But his unstaggering faith arose from his great thoughts of Him who had promised. He kept saying to himself, He is able, He is able. …For every look at your difficulties, take ten at what thy God is.” – F. B. Meyer
So, in our super busy world, against overwhelming circumstances, we can always look to our Heavenly Father, and believe He will deliver on all of His promises. Here are a few of those promises:
- His Presence – Psalm 16:8 & Matthew 28:20
- His Peace – Philippians 4:6-7 & John 14:27
- His Provision – Psalm 23:1 & Matthew 6:33
- Our Right Standing with Him – 2 Corinthians 5:21
- Our Future with Him: - John 14:3
Do you believe? He is able; stagger not.
There isn’t much that’s sweeter than answered prayers. In the face of my own leadership struggles, busyness in our church community, and waning participation in our small groups, I was frustrated last spring. Frustrations are isolating. I felt more alone than I actually was.
On the advice of a mentor, I began to pray for The Lord to direct the next step for our church. Understanding we all run at 3500 rpms, in bodies that are made to rest around 1000 rpms, I didn’t want my request for our church to meet in groups to ever be “one more thing” people had to do.
After pulling back on my own schedule, and praying, I was led to this idea: small groups, for 10 weeks, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.
Entry and exit dates; so no one feels they’re joining something for life. Planning and prioritizing for 10 weeks is a smaller and easier commitment. I’ve seen The Lord answer my prayer, and been encouraged to see new leaders and groups come together, excited about meeting.
If we’re committing to 10 weeks this fall, my next prayer was about what would be worthy of our concentrated effort. Paul wrote Romans as a letter to the church in Rome, to set straight the design and nature of the Gospel, to help this church against those who were trying to make this new faith in Christ into a bunch of rules. In my mind, this letter is one of the most clear and comprehensive books on what it means for us when we choose to follow Christ.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” — Romans 1:16-17 NLT
I have written this study with the idea that anyone can pick it up and the hope that everyone who reads Romans is touched by our Heavenly Father. So, here we are, beginning 11 weeks of study, and 10 weeks of meeting together.
My prayer is we will find ourselves thrilled, amazed and in awe of all God has done for us. And as we open His Word, that we would encounter His Presence over and over again this fall. Whether we are alone at our breakfast table before the sun comes up or in a living room with our small group.
In Romans 8, we are told we are not given a spirit of fearful slaves, but a spirit of adoption, as we have been adopted into God’s family. May we walk in this confident hope, as we build on our knowledge of all He has granted to us.
If you’re a part of ACF Northwest, you can pick up a copy each week. If you miss a Sunday service, or if you’re not in Austin, but would like to participate, you can get a copy on our website:
We will post a new week of study, each Friday. May The Lord bless you as you read His Word, and meet in groups to discuss it with others. And let me say to all who might read this, He is faithful! He has heard and is answering my prayers.
Celia and I have always loved vacations. One of our favorites is renting a catamaran and sailing around the British Virgin Islands. We have been on a few of these trips with family and friends. When my brother first invited me to go, I wondered if we would be safe, sailing around the ocean.
As a college student, I spent a night on a houseboat on Lake Lewisville. We threw an anchor overboard, without tying it to the boat…which, was not smart. So, we were left with only one anchor. In the middle of the night, the wind shifted, and our large houseboat beached on the dam. The boat and brilliant sailors survived.
The experience made me wonder how secure we would be on a sailing trip. My brother assured me by explaining how we would anchor to a mooring ball each night. These mooring balls are secured to huge concrete slabs on the bottom of the sea and are trustworthy anchors for sailboats like we planned to rent.
He was right; we survived many windy nights on these trips. If the winds were strong or switched directions, our boat may have swung from one side to another, making lots of noise, but it was always secure.
On our last trip, we sailed out to Anegada, away from the rest of the islands, and that night a fierce storm blew in. Winds over 60 mph wreaked havoc on us and all the other boats in the harbor.
I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out our window. Huge waves surrounded us, and rain was coming down sideways. I couldn’t believe our anchor held us through this storm, but it did.
One of the boats snapped off the mooring ball, and beached. The next morning, we heard the beached catamaran was larger than 50 feet. Based on its size, the mooring ball was not a secure anchor and didn’t hold the big sailboat in the storm.
You can barely see the catamaran that beached during the storm, on the shore.
Our anchor is the hope we have in the Lord, that His promises are true. We believe He is with us in all of our circumstances, because He repeatedly has told us He will be (Psalm 16:8, 23:4, Matthew 28:20). We also believe when our lives on earth are over, if we trust Jesus, He will come for us and we will live with Him forever, because that’s what He told us (John 3:16, 14:3). That’s our hope!
“So, God has given us both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” – Hebrews 6:18-19
Jesus also told us we would have troubles. There will be storms, and circumstances we might not pick for ourselves. That’s how life is. But, He tells us in John 16:33, to take heart because He has overcome the world.
If you’re like me, you want to know your anchor is trustworthy. Whether I’m on a sailing trip with Celia and our kids, or walking through life, I need to be able to count on my anchor. So, I have learned to take the Lord at His word.
“For the word of The LORD holds true, and we can trust everything He does.” – Psalm 33:4
We’re tempted to hold on to our people and things so tightly because we’re not sure we can trust our anchor. If our loved ones are tied to us, when storms come, they’ll be more like that big boat we saw in Anegada, tied to an anchor that couldn’t hold. As much as we love them, they’re not nearly as secure if they’re tied to us, as if they’re tied to Him.
our family, on the beach, Loblolly Bay on Anegada, BVI
One of the things I say to the Lord when I pray, is “my life – our lives are in your hands. We’re trusting you. We’re counting on your word and your promises, Lord.” And I know He is worthy of my trust!
“Get quiet, beloved soul; tell out thy sorrow and complaint to God. Let not the greatest business or pressure divert thee from God. When men rage about thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms are high, hide thee in His secret place." – F. B. Meyer
When Celia and I first started dating, I marveled at how she listened to the radio. Remember the radio? She would rifle through the channels, giving each song a few seconds, then on to the next station. I teased her, saying she didn’t want to know what song was on, but what else was on.
With the backdrop of a world consumed not just with what we want, but what else we want, we took our annual youth camp to the mountains of Colorado. I love seeing kids without their phones...all week! They’re free - they play hard, sit still, worship; they’re present…and together. It.is.beautiful.
Before we rush to judgment on kids, hold up your right hand and confess with me: “I, _____, need a week without my phone, too.” If we’re honest, we will own not just our busyness, but our high level of distraction.
Our access to everything going on in the world, the instant it happens, battles some profound and simple truths. There’s a term for this battle; Fear of Missing Out – FOMO.
My friend, Holden, who works as a trainer, recently shared how difficult his business is because people struggle to commit to a 30-minute time slot. It’s not just work, but in trying to plan events with friends, he’s frustrated by how hard it is to get his friends to commit to anything.
A million choices, all designed to give us the perfect meal, day, house…life. This doesn’t satisfy nearly as much as it leaves us chasing an ideal vision of how our lives should be.
Only, this isn’t it. This isn’t heaven.
Neither the beauty of this present world, or our pursuit of all it offers us, are the pinnacle of our existence. False gods never satisfy; they only tease and leave us wanting more.
The breathtaking beauty of the peaks of mountains, the shores of the most remote beaches, and even the stars over all of Creation are only the best of a fallen world. The One who spoke all of this to be will restore all things.
“Do you really want to suggest sinful man can create stories and worlds that outshine the worlds God will remake? Careful there. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT.” – All Things New, John Eldredge
The LORD will make our world new (Revelation 21). Creation is amazing. Whether I see the majesty of His creatures, like a bull moose busting through brush as he grazes on pretty much any thing he wants, or if I look up into the night sky at the wonder of the stars, light years beyond me. Still, it is only a glimpse, a glimmer of what’s to come.
If you haven’t read Revelation 21 & 22, describing the world to come, you should. When I consider a world without tears, goodbyes, disease and an endless supply of all I need in the Presence of my Father, my heart leaps.
Even more importantly, when we come to Him, we become a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). Friends, as His followers, we have become His family, and all that He has is ours. We’re not only His followers, but His children.
“Justification is our position through the wonderful grace of God, and by virtue of the finished work of Christ, which is imputed to all who believe. All that He is, is reckoned to us who are in Him.” – F. B. Meyer on Romans 1:17
When we receive the fullness of His love for us, and understand who we are in Him, we can rest. Like I saw our kids rest at camp, you and I can rest secure in the love of Christ. We comprehend how secure our future is in Christ, and that this world is not our home.
“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”— Galatians6:14
The truth of who we are and what is coming for us offers us the freedom to love others, without the fear of missing out. Chasing all the things this world has to offer us will never be fully satisfy us, but when we say yes to Him and step into the moments He has for us, we find true life. And with Him, we are not only fully satisfied in the here and now, but there’s even more to come.
Last week I was in a workshop with some students, teachers and administrators from Austin ISD, case workers from Child Protective Services, as well as a few other agencies. We focused on understanding racism, it’s impact on all of us, and what steps we could take as we face it in our society.
Our discussions were difficult and emotionally charged because we all have been touched by the topic in one way or another. It was, thankfully, a very diverse crowd. I say thankfully because if we’re going to affect change in our community, we need to gather and hear one another, across all perspectives.
The Church came into the crosshairs of our discussion. I heard different perspectives on the Church, from some folks who don’t have any interest in attending church. Some of them have general assumptions about the Church, and some have genuinely been hurt in their experience.
Lest you think I always react in a perfectly pastoral way (whatever that is), please know I’m just a guy and my blood is as prone to boil as yours. Through God’s grace, I was able to listen. In listening, I was challenged.
Some of the comments I heard were hard for me to hear, but they were honest experiences and opinions. Someone in the Church needs to hear, and respond with grace, to those who have been hurt. So, I signed a few of you up for the next workshop :)
As I considered what I heard, I ran across this quote:
“Seek to live in My love, which covers a multitude of sins: both yours and others’. Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love; see them from My perspective.”– Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
Look at others through the lens of love. Ever wonder how The LORD sees those who hold political views that oppose ours? Sure, we cannot imagine how anyone could support such views or different lifestyle choices, especially those who have such hostility toward Him.
If we’re honest, we more closely identify with King David’s words “shouldn’t I hate those who hate You?” from Psalm 139, than Jesus’ idea of loving others…even our enemies. Yet, we as a Church are called to love others. Every. Single. Believer.
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16
How can we love them…
if we only want to prove we’re right, and they’re wrong?
if our social media posts take shots at their political views?
if we don’t know their names, their stories, or what they hold dear?
if we haven’t sat across from them and listened to their point of view?
What became clear to me, and I keep thinking about, is this: Those who harbor anger and hostility for the Church have no idea how much The LORD loves them.
“Each one of us is unique, known by name, and loved by the One who fashioned us.” – Adam, Henri J. M. Nouwen
Do they know He has made them to be in intimate union with Him? Do they know He loves them with an everlasting love? Do they know in the midst of their tragedies, He is there, with them, hurting and wanting to comfort them?
“How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t event count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, You are still with me!” – Psalm 139:17-18
When we look at others through His lens of love, we will more clearly see their hurt, hostility or point of view in the correct light, through their eyes. And then, He might just be able to use us to comfort them.