Reflection In The Well

Reflection in the well

A few days ago I ran into someone from my past. This person’s behavior was extremely rude and condescending. Everyone in the room noticed it. Instead of being angry, I really felt sorry for the person. I hate to think that anyone who identifies themself as a Christian could carry feelings in their heart for me that in their mind would justify such an attitude. Surprisingly, I found myself feeling downcast after that encounter, at least until I was reminded of the woman at the well.

The woman at the well was shunned and rejected by others because of her immorality. Jesus knew her story but He still loved her and accepted her anyway. I am very much like the woman at the well. I think to some degree, we are all like the woman at the well regardless of gender, yet we all too often forget that we are. If we didn’t forget, perhaps we wouldn’t be so willing to dismiss others as lost causes and continue to associate them with a past that has been forgiven. It’s sad really, how we so frequently fail to extend to others the same mercy and grace we hope to be granted; how we boast of our salvation and all that Christ has done for us, yet we dismiss others as if He can’t or won’t do the same for them. Perhaps, we could live in unity and the world could be a much better place, if only we began to examine the reflection in the well as closely as we do the woman at the well.

Father God, thank you for loving me and meeting me daily right where I am. Help me to spend more time examining my own refection more closely instead of others. Transform me, change me to reflect more of you and less of me. Help me to place my value in you and you alone instead of what others may think of me. Help me to refrain from being so willing to dismiss others. Help me to see them as valued and loved by you, just as I am. Help me to uplift, encourage and inspire others and send those who will uplift, encourage and inspire me. Help us all to love one another and glorify you in all that we think, say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Oblivious to Love

We love because he first loved us

Several years ago, at an event my ex-brother-in-law was hosting at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas, I met a young man for the first time that upon our meeting looked at me and said, “I love you.” When I think back on that day, I often wonder if the shock and disgust I experienced internally in response to his comment, was in anyway reflected through my facial expression or body language. I remember thinking, “Love me? Seriously, you love me? You don’t even know me! You’re pathetic!”

In my opinion, he was just another Bill Britt groupie who was oblivious to the truth of what life was really like off stage and out of view of the public eye; one of those who referred to the man as a “demigod” and seemed to think that their life would be miraculously changed if only they could come into contact with him; one of those phonies who turned their noses up as they walked past you until they found out you were related to him and then suddenly had to tell you how great you looked and how absolutely beautiful your child was and how much she looked “just like her Uncle Bill”. (I trust that you can now grasp why I was so cynical).

This young man, along with his brothers and sister were inspirational recording artists. They were there performing over the course of the weekend. Little did I realize then, that the groupies were not the only ones who were oblivious that day. I was. I was oblivious. I was completely oblivious to the love this young man was expressing to me that day. I was completely oblivious to the love of Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:19-21 summs it up very well: “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (NIV)

Today, it’s amazing to me to see the responses of so many when I say, “I love you.” Some trip and stutter/mumble and some even fall over and can’t say they love me at all. Some of whom claim to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. It’s sad really, not because I want them to lie or to love me for my sake, but for their own sake. I want them to know the love of Jesus Christ because it’s only through Christ that we are capable of truly knowing love.

 Matthew 5:44-45 even tells us “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven”.

WOW! Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us so that we may be children of our Father in heaven! That would certainly make sense then that we are to love strangers and our brothers and sisters.  Hey, this means we’re even required to love the radicals who are murdering Christians and to pray for them.

“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 children 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 own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Seriously, if we can’t say the words “I love you” and mean it, how then can we demonstrate love in our families, our churches, our communities, or the world?  How can we walk around with bitterness, resentment, jealousy and hatred in our hearts for another and claim to know the love of God when the Word says we can’t?

What’s in your heart? What is your reaction when someone tells you they love you? Do you truly love your brothers and sisters? Do you love perfect strangers? Do you love your enemies? How is that love demonstrated? Do you pray for them?  I know. I know. I know I need help in this area.

Father, it is only because you first loved us that we are capable of loving at all. You are love. Help us to not be oblivious to your love. Help us to not stutter, trip and fall. Help us to truly love others the way you would have us love them; including even our enemies. Help us to say, “I love you” to others and mean it wholeheartedly. Help us to impact the lives of others as this young man impacted my life that day. Help us to reflect your love into our families, our churches, our communities, and this hurting world. Help us to seek you and strive for a level of perfection that we can obtain only in you; not because we are righteous but because you are. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

 

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God’s Authority or Your Own?

God's Authority

Even THE ALMIGHTY GOD doesn’t require us to grovel and beg for His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  God does not require us to beg and try to prove ourselves worthy of forgiveness; we could never prove ourselves worthy.  His Word says we only have to ask.  He is a wonderful, merciful and loving Father, full of grace.

Our heavenly Father only asks that we confess our sins in order to be forgiven. Yet, so many times when someone offends us, they’re often made to feel as though there is nothing they are able to do to ever earn our forgiveness. And grace is merely something that is only sought to receive and never a gift to be given. Who are we to put ourselves in a position of higher authority than God? Is that not what we’re doing when we carry a grudge and hold on to the bitterness of unforgiveness for an offense which God has forgiven?

Imagine sitting in a court room hearing a judge say to an offender, “You are free to go.”  Are you in a position of higher authority to override the judge’s decision and condemn the offender to prison?  What if you were the offender?  Would you say, “Hold on your honor, but I think I need to be returned to my cell”?

You see, the same is true of forgiving ourselves.  So often, we want to condemn ourselves to sit in a cell of shame, guilt and self-condemnation when the blood of Christ has unlocked the cell and broken the shackles and chains that are now lying at our feet. Who are we to place ourselves in a position of higher authority than God by condemning ourselves to sit in that cell when He has commanded us to walk in freedom?

Is there someone you need to forgive today?  Could that someone be you? James 4 tells us “submit yourselves to God” and John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Have you submitted yourself to God?  Are you walking in God’s authority or your own?

 

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Transforming Power In His Love

Transforming power

A little over a year ago I asked the Lord to search my heart and reveal anything in me that was unpleasing to Him. It wasn’t long at all after this prayer that I received a phone call on a particularly joyous day from someone that I didn’t like very much at all because of the history between us. I was extremely unhappy with him for calling me on this particular day and attempting to steal my joy. After the phone call I sat stewing in my anger and I cried out, “God help me! His ignorance infuriates me to the core!” Then my Father answered me, “Did you not ask me to search your heart? Did I not command you to love one another?”

Don’t you just love it when something happens and the Lord reminds you of what you’ve been praying for and you realize He is answering your prayer, stretching you, teaching you, strengthening you, and helping you to grow in Him?  I hung my head down and said, “Yes Father.  I don’t hate him but do I really have to LOVE him?”  The Father answered, “Yes.”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“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 children 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 own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13

So, in March of last year I began the journey of going deeper in Christ, exploring love, seeking change and growth in order to love more like Christ wants me to love.

Some define love as an emotion; others, a state of mind, and there are those who define it as an action.  One thing I have learned about love personally is that when it is sought after in Christ, it is like this extremely gentle, yet powerful force that gradually overtakes you and changes you from within.  Therefore, in my opinion, words like emotion or action are inadequate in defining the love referred to in 1 Corinthians 13:13; love that is greater than faith and hope.  I’m not sure that there is any particular word to describe such love but I can tell you what I have found.

This kind of love is more powerful than hate, more powerful than vengeance, and more powerful than wrongdoing or hurt that may come our way.  This kind of love has the power to overcome anything.  It has the ability to take us beyond ourselves.  It sees beyond offenses and cares deeply for the heart of the offender.  Not only does it care about the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the hurting but it cares about the spiritual needs of others.  This love takes us beyond forgiveness and enhances the healing that comes as a result of forgiveness because not only are we to forgive our offenders; we are commanded to love them.

 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

This kind of love possesses transforming power! There is transforming power in His love that continuously changes us as we seek Him!

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Live With Abandon

little girl jumping

I really like the Newsboys song, Live With Abandon.  It’s such a profound song to me, especially this part:

I wanna live with abandon

Give You all that I am

Every part of my heart Jesus

I place in Your hands

I wanna live with abandon

I’ll drop everything to follow You

It’s only Your hands I hold onto

 To “live with abandon” means to live in complete surrender to something, with complete disregard for anything else.  Paul lived with abandon to the assignment God had given him. He surrendered himself totally to the goal of serving God with disregard even for his own life.

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  – Acts 20:23-24

Many of us don’t live in abandon to God’s working in our lives and allow him to use us to build the Kingdom, glorify him and accomplish all that he wants to accomplish through us. Unless the Holy Spirit is leading you into a mission field, stepping out in faith and testifying to the gospel of God’s grace does not present the threat of prison or death for us like it did for Paul. So, what holds us back?  Everything that relates to our flesh holds us back.  The lies of the enemy holds us back if we allow them.  Fear of the unknown can hold us back. Looking at ourselves instead of God can hold us back. I can’t imagine how different our lives would be if we could get over ourselves to the point of being as obedient to God as Paul was.  I know I sometimes feel like a little girl being beckoned by her Father saying “Jump!  I’m here to catch you!”

Lord, help me to say “Yes!” and to live with abandon; completely surrendered to You; to jump into all that You have for me and to bring You honor and glory. Amen.

 

 

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Who’s In Your Church?

church doors

This post is not an attempt to scold anyone; only to encourage each of us to examine our hearts and grow.

My husband and I were out of town several years ago visiting a family member and had planned to attend church with them that Sunday morning.  Our family member had warned us that the Church was upset with their pastor.  She explained to us there was this man who had been attending the worship services on Sunday mornings who may have been homeless and obviously had an issue with alcohol because he still smelled of alcohol when he attended church on Sunday mornings.  The pastor refused to allow anyone to ask him to leave.

My family member and I were in complete agreement with their pastor and couldn’t imagine a Church filled with the Holy Spirit wanting to ask someone in such obvious need to leave the church instead of reaching out to him.  I mean, seriously, could you imagine Jesus asking the people who approached Him with their needs and issues to ‘leave Him’?

My husband and I were received warmly by the Church when we arrived that Sunday morning.  We took our seats and as we were waiting for the worship service to begin, this man entered the sanctuary and took a seat on the pew directly in front us. I knew it was the man my relative had refered to because I heard the lady sitting with her husband behind us say, “Someone should really ask him to leave.”  I looked at my husband and said, “If anyone asks him to leave we are getting up and walking out of here with him.” Thank God, no one did and he remained throughout the service. However, this experience made an extremely profound impression on me.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occasion in some churches today. So many claim to want people to come through the doors to worship with them but they feel the need to pick and choose who they want to welcome or not.  They seem to have some predetermined image of who is acceptable and who is not. It’s as if they expect their guests to be transformed and refined by the fire before they are welcomed through the doors.

Later, someone made a comment to me expressing her concern over rumors surrounding someone who had began attending the same church she had been attending.  She was concerned to the point that she was considering leaving the church because this couple was attending and their pastor considered the rumors gossip and refused to confront it.  It turned out these rumors were based on someone’s perception rather than anything of real substance.

Seriously, what has become of the Church?  Who do we think we are?  Who does the Church think the church is for?  Who do we think the Church is for? Aren’t we supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus?

1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  

Aren’t we commanded to love one another as Christ loves us? YES, we are!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that Jesus Christ was willing to meet me right where I was in the pit of my life and save me. Praise God!  He didn’t ask me to leave.  He didn’t ignore me.  He didn’t reject me.  He didn’t leave when I arrived.  He met me right where I was and accepted me just as I was.

The Church, every single one of us, including myself needs to come to our knees and pray regularly, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24  

We all, every single one of us needs to examine ourselves regularly and ask God to search our hearts and change us.  We need to desire and seek that change.  His Word tells us:

 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

Seriously, what kind of Christians are we if we aren’t transformed and we look like the world?  Why would anyone want what we have if it looks no different than what they find in the world?  When visitors walk through our church doors who do they find?  If we are the body of Christ, shouldn’t it be Christ or someone who resembles Him that they find within our doors?  Who’s in your church?

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How Great Is Your Love?

loves much because she is forgiven of much

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

I am so in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so glad that He loves me, has seen me through so much, forgiven me of so much throughout my lifetime and changed me. I am also thankful that He is not finished with me and is helping me to continually grow in Him and be changed. He is the source of all things good in my life.  I suppose my heart is so full and I love so much because I have been forgiven of so much.  Because of Him and His wonderful love, mercy, and grace I am able to walk in freedom.

I am sure many of you can relate.  However, the enemy will sometimes use others to try to rewrap us in the garment of guilt and shame from our pasts that we’ve fought so hard to take off.  He will use them to try to hand us that self-condemnation we struggled to finally release and hand over to God. When they do this, we just have to remind them that we gave that garment to Jesus and refuse to wear it.  We have to refuse to carry the condemnation of the sins from our pasts for which we’ve been forgiven. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Continue to walk in freedom and pray for those who condemn and persecute you.

1 Peter 5:8-9 warns of the enemy’s tricks.  We must be careful not to pass judgment on people and condemn them because of things we’ve heard about them from their pasts. We shouldn’t claim to know enough about someone’s relationship with the Lord to accuse them of hiding behind Him because they seek a relationship with Him. We can’t claim to know a person’s heart when we really don’t know the person at all or anything about the struggles that they’ve gone through to come where they are in their relationship with Christ.  If we have an issue with someone, Matthew 18:15-17 tells us how to handle it.

We are a world full of people who have been hurt and have hurt others.  We are a world full of people who are on both the giving and receiving end of love and forgiveness.  If we plan on arriving at our ultimate destination we are all going to have to figure out how to give as much, if not more love and forgiveness as we receive.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47

How great is your love?  Are you willing to love much and forgive much in order to be forgiven?

Thank you, Lord for forgiving me of much, for giving me a heart that is full and loves much and for filling me with Your peace. I will love You and praise You forever!  Please Lord, grant Your children strength to be alert and stand against the enemy’s tricks, lies and deception.  Please Lord, help us to forgive one another so that we may be forgiven. Help us Lord, to love one another and extend grace to others in order to forgive them.  Take us deep in Your love Lord and help us to give that which we expect to receive.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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